Sunday, November 30, 2014

roller derby girls

the currency came in one pound lumps of living flesh and john handled it all. the flesh was covered in a seamless dermal layer and each varied in texture, color, firmness and shape to a certain degree. the lumps did not give the impression that they were in any way sentient, but did seem to respond on some level to being tossed from hand to hand as they appeared to tense up slightly when traveling through the air (though in truth, they were rarely dropped). john held roughly 50 at any given time in a burlap sack he wore across his body. he never strayed far from the ticket cage so that he could easily and safely offload the extras or grab more to make change.

john was gruff with the customers (who were always men). he let them know as they entered in no uncertain terms that we were professional roller derby girls NOT hookers and any money they wanted to win or lose on side bets had nothing to do with the house. we were a clean and legal operation he told them and anyone who tried anything funny would have his fists to deal with. the truth of course was that we made our money selling the men rotgut liquor and tricking them into the futile hope that at least one of the roller girls would get drunk enough to fall in love with them for a few hours by fanning the flames of furious unquenchable lust with an endless loop of thundering ass to eye level bare legs and satin tap-dance shorts. in order for the men to drink they would have to hold out a ticket for a roller girl they fancied and buy her one as well. amid the elbows and sling tosses, the girls would keep an eye out for eager faces and tickets directed their way. once we spotted our mark, we would peel away from our carefully choreographed rolling chaos, roll over just close enough to grab the outstretched tickets and roll down to the bar in the center of the ring. the bartender would mix the rotgut for the customer and an exact replica of the drink in colored water for the girl. the girl would wait for the other roller-girls to pass, bring the two drinks back to the customer and then make big theater out of downing the shot at the same time as the mark. it never took long for the crowds to get angry-drunk. always, just before things got really awful, john would pull the plug, stop the music, turn up the lights and have his goons roughly clear the hall to make way for the next group of suckers.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


i'd known him for years, he was gentle and kind and when he asked if i felt like being his company on a road trip to buy a small town i said yes. we traveled in a giant, cherry red and white futureliner that he'd turned into a house on wheels. we walked to the front of the vehicle and climbed up a small, winding stairwell into the plane-like cockpit. we were 20 feet in the air and the window wrapped around the space like a slice of a giant fishbowl. he settled in behind the massive steering wheel in the single captain's seat and i sat behind on the sofa, my camera and carry-on nesting safely beside me.

as we traveled, our conversation was pleasant, but mostly we reveled in the easy silence that fell between us while he concentrated on the road and i took pictures. as the days passed, we stopped in dozens of towns to eat, laugh and chill with the locals. we smiled all the time and each went to sleep at the end of every day with a calm anticipation that the next day would bring more fun.

after a couple of weeks, we finally rolled into 'his' town. at first blush, it seemed to hold nothing but a couple of stray dogs, vacant streets and lots of rubble. it vaguely resembled the ruins around the salton sea. we rolled to a stop and climbed down to explore. he said he'd expected it to look this way, but that we should keep an open mind because he was certain there were gems.

as i climbed in and out of broken doorways, i reached out to support my footing and suddenly felt a solid wall. the plaster was cool and smooth to the touch. as my hand traveled over the surface i realized it was venetian plaster. i looked ahead and indeed, the walls as far as i could see absolutely glowed. i called to my friend, 'i found it! i think i found it!'. soon we were excitedly crisscrossing each other as we found complete, perfect, spacious apartments- 19 in all- that needed little more than a broom and mop to be minty and luxurious.

when he saw how excited i was, he asked me if i thought any of my friends would want to come to live and breathe life back into the town. i started dialing immediately and over the next few weeks dogs were adopted, streets were cleared, gardens started and the nightly community ritual of talking over the day with dinner and wine was firmly rooted.

everyone (including me) started calling my friend 'pappy'- which he adored.

Monday, November 24, 2014


it would vacillate between being a beautiful box constructed by traditional japanese joinery finished in beeswax and a bright pink lacquered frame. every time it would morph from one to the other, we would all 'ooh' and 'ahh'. both were exquisite and we all agreed there seemed to be sound arguments on both sides when it came to choosing either one. finally someone said, 'only a geisha would know the right answer!'. at that exact moment, two geishas entered the room and as they carefully folded their flowered umbrellas, we ran to them and excitedly explained our dilemma. the geishas did not interrupt the smooth forward flow of their entry despite being mobbed by us. they folded and then carefully placed their umbrellas into the porcelain stand and then slipped out of their wooden getas. they only nodded at us over their shoulders as they continued wordlessly up the stairs and on into their rooms.

we felt somewhat deflated but quickly agreed that our excitement must have seemed frivolous to them. we returned to our previous spot, marked two columns on the top of a paper and began to make a list outlining the attributes of each as the object ebbed and flowed from one form to the other.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

flour mill

my work would keep me in stockholm for the next 7 months. i sent word ahead that my only requirements for a living space were that it be immaculately clean, totally quiet and within walking distance of the studio. a flurry of worried emails littered my inbox regarding the impossibility of fulfilling my request since all the best hotels were on the opposite end of the city. my terse response was a copy/paste of the original post. i subsequently automatically deleted any emails regarding the subject as i was too busy to give it any more thought.

3 weeks later when i arrived in stockholm i was met by a small dark man in an ill-fitting black suit and a chauffeur cap holding up a placard with my misspelled name. he loaded my bag and we traveled in silence as i concerned myself with answering all the emails that had piled up since i'd stepped onto the plane. as the car rolled to a stop in front of the studio, i knit my brows and tilted my head as a question. 'you're over there across the street on the top floor. they found you a spot in the graduate student housing.', he answered directly. i gave him a tip, thanked him, extended the handle on my bag and rolled it behind me toward what looked like an abandoned flour mill. as i passed through the glass doors into the cavernous space, i became aware of the sound my leather soles made on the worn, silky smooth cement floor. sssss-clip, sssss-clip. it made my ears feel relaxed and i let my eyes wander over the beautiful decay left by the flour industry. giant stainless steel vats, the still rollers of gravity conveyer belts winding through the space like a massive sleeping python and the walls of small paned windows three stories high flooding the details of the factory with golden hour light. by the time i'd closed myself into the freight elevator, i felt myself smiling.

when i stepped out onto the top floor, i saw a row of louvered doors. here and there they would open or shut as some preoccupied grad student shuffled through. 'perfect,' i thought,' everyone is as busy as me.' i walked down the row until i found my room. a bed, a closet, small desk, sink to brush my teeth and a key to my personal toilet/shower directly across the hall.

i unpacked my things and headed over to the studio.

Monday, November 17, 2014

the master

with incredible skill, speed and precision, he grabbed, dispatched, gutted, scaled and extracted two perfect filets from each fish. into a large bucket went the heads for stock, the tails got tossed over his shoulder to the gallery of hungry cats. his head was bent toward his task and his little white cap was pulled down upon his skull so firmly it made his ears stand nearly straight out. his tiny fingers, impossibly nimble were glistening with water and blood. his every movement was artful and full of grace. his apron was wet and glittered with cast off scales. the waiting buckets of writhing gills and fins kept getting pushed nearer as he emptied the ones closest to him. i watched him for many minutes and only realized my mouth was hanging open when i started to speak, 'he's-', 'he knows he's a raccoon.' interjected the man standing next to me. 'no, not that...' i said, 'he's amazing.'

Sunday, November 16, 2014

favorite niece

my favorite teenage niece had been behaving strangely. her last few visits had found me with my house too full of people and activity to do anything but observe her from a distance, but i was absolutely sure she was under the influence of something.

this day when she crossed my threshold, i resolved that no matter what was going on i would focus solely on her. she was (as always) delicate, sweet and beautiful, but her pale blue irises were almost entirely obscured by her dilated pupils. when i asked her to follow me to my office she did not hesitate. i closed the door for privacy and before we'd even sat down i asked her what she had been taking, she answered immediately, 'klonopin and benzedrine'. i was completely floored but i commanded every corpuscle in my body to remain steady so i could help her. 'do you know why?' i asked. 'to be crazy and have fun- like you did when you were my age' she answered sincerely. i squeezed my temples with the tips of my fingers and knew she was referring to one of my books. she admitted that she didn't really know what the drugs were, but that she enjoyed the effect. i opened my laptop and she sat next to me staring at the screen while i googled the drugs. soon i'd read enough and quietly closed my laptop. in the next few minutes, she told me that all her friends took the combo and there were literally hundreds of the pills available for practically nothing since the kids were stealing them from their parents. i thought for a long moment. 'if i asked you to come with me when i go to india for 6 months on the condition that you put all of this down and gave some serious thought to not picking it up again, would you?' 'YES!, absolutely!' she gripped my arm and asked me if i was certain and i assured her i was. as she ran out the door, i picked up my phone and started making arrangements.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

only acrimony

Thursday, November 13, 2014

young teacher

i was frustrated. i'd gone through at least a half dozen teaching assistants and the semester wasn't even half over. the leaves of the palm trees outside glistened in the sunshine and bent enticingly in the warm trade winds. the sapphire blue of the ocean could be clearly seen through the floor to ceiling windows that took up an entire wall of my classroom. my students were distracted and screwing around and i knew i was wasting my time even going through the motions. i sighed deeply as i wrote the days work on the board. i tried not to listen to the chatter from the class behind me and stay focused on getting the correct information up in front of them. as i turned around i caught the tail end of the descent of some unknown object that had been tossed across the room. i walked over to the windows to draw the blinds so the projection screen would be visible. as the room grew dark, i saw that all of my clothing had been outlined in one of the fluorescent dyes we used for experiments. i looked like a glowing rudimentary drawing. i started to try and figure out how in the hell they had accomplished the feat, but stopped myself when i realized it was just pushing me further off track. i pressed my eyes closed as the class erupted into laughter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

one more year in LA

faty and mario had lost another tenant. she begged me to take the house for a year but i resisted because i as much as i wanted to help her, i had my heart set on leaving LA. 'just come and look' she implored. after saying no a dozen times, i finally relented figuring i could at least spend some time with her and assure her that everything would turn out alright.

two giant eucalyptus trees flanked the walk leading to the house and rustled their leaves in a peppery greeting as we passed. we walked into the house and i couldn't believe how adorable it was. it was a turn of the century california bungalow in a great neighborhood near the ocean with all the right elements and tons of natural light. though it wasn't a green and green, it was pretty darn close. when you stood at the front entryway, there was an unobstructed view all the way to the screened back door. the mature foliage that surrounded the property gave it a feeling of luxurious privacy. faty said she and mario had restored it before the last tenant had moved in and it truly was beautiful. i couldn't help but picture myself padding barefoot on the wide plank hardwood floors with an unhurried cup of saturday coffee cradled in my hands deciding what route to bike to the farmers market. 'okay,' i said, 'let's work out a price.'

faty hugged me and the deal was made.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


i had trained to be a flight attendant though i had no idea why. the phone rang me out of a deep sleep one morning and i heard 'this is your maiden voyage! today is your first day! be at the terminal in an hour!' my mind was still jumbled from being yanked awake and i wasn't even sure whether or not i had dreamed the call. i ran around my quarters getting ready- hopping into my shoes, brushing my teeth, whipping my hair up into the regulation weird swirl and just trying to focus enough to remember everything. it was only when i was boarding the plane that i looked down at my feet and saw i had on two different shoes.i frantically checked my little black cross body bag and realized i didn't have my phone either- which was an actual disaster since i was flying across the world. as i passed through the hatch i was handed my duty roster by one of the other stewards. i saw arleen's name on the crew list but not mine. i decided the first thing i would do was find her, but as i looked up from the paper i realized the plane was freaking HUGE and she could be anywhere.

i started to hear my name being called and looked around and was surprised to find some of my friends. i pointed out my shoes and we all laughed. howard said, 'my god, your dress!' i already knew it was awful, but i instinctively looked around to catch my reflection in something and reaffirmed the strange, puffy sleeves and pink/brown/green woven pattern and said, 'jesus, i look like i'm wearing imelda marcos' sofa cover!' we laughed again. one of the flight attendants passed by and gave me the stank eye so i told my friends i had to go do my job. they all asked why i was working and i said i had absolutely no idea but i thought it might be for research.

paper in hand, i moved through the plane trying to find arleen. i observed that there were several different uniform styles that seemed to coordinate with specific areas of the plane. great! i'll just find the imelda marcos sofa section and i can figure it out from there! i walked and walked, but nothing. i spotted a napkin that matched my awful dress and got excited that i was closing in, but it was a false alarm. i picked up the napkin anyway and held it in front of me like a ticket as i wandered aimlessly through the plane. i was really getting sick of looking for my station, so when i heard paul's voice say, 'hey, lady, take a load off and share a cocktail with me!' i did. we joked about my uniform and my shoe mistake, caught up on some personal stuff and then i started to feel guilty. i took another quick sip of my martini and left paul to continue on my mission.

eventually i just gave up wandering and started to do flight attendant 'things' in the wrong area- but really, it wasn't helpful because i didn't actually care (or even know what flight attendants do...) and since people were hopping in and out of jacuzzi's on the floor i chose, i was only moving clean towels from one spot to another. finally i said to another flight attendant, 'this job is meaningless. i can't do it.' she looked at me like i was crazy and said, '5 grand for two hours of work, you must be loaded to turn that away.' i stared back at her with my mouth open as i did the math in my head; over two million a year!? god, i could finish my book in costa rica and live like a queen. i decided to double down and at least look like i was working.

fast forward and i was still useless. my friends kept finding me and making me laugh and i was directing passengers to wrong areas etc. when the plane landed i left with my friends to find a great restaurant and laugh some more.

Friday, November 7, 2014


a beanpole blond 11 year old girl scampered by, 'what's that on your arms?' i asked. she hardly looked at me as she threw her answer over her shoulder and continued on her child's mission, 'them's tats.' i opened my mouth to say they're not real, right? but before i could get the words out, my snaggle-toothed white trash escort read my thoughts and said, 'thay's real a'right. 'round here if yer mama 'n daddy letcha, you kin get 'em even if yer a kid.' we walked on in silence down the dusty streets until we arrived at the house. it was worse than i remembered- barely a shack. most of the walls warped, scavenged plywood held up by precarious heaps of scrap and debris piled next to them. as we neared, the door opened and the worried woman moved quickly toward me. i'd written a story a couple of years back about the death of her brother at the hands of the corrupt local police and now that her 10 year old daughter had gone missing, she reached out to me to see if i could stir up more than local help.

she wrung her hands as she recited the details of the disappearance and her subsequent attempts to find her little girl. once she told me about the reaction of the officials involved in the case, i knew the child was dead but did not say it out loud.

Monday, November 3, 2014

lindsay lohan

lindsay lohan was a mess as usual. i tried not to look at her because there was nothing to be done and i had no morbid curiosity regarding examining the fine details of her decline. she was loud and oblivious. her voice was ruined from years of chain smoking and she sounded more like a caustic old man than a 26 year old starlet. she repeatedly wrapped her lips around the soggy filter of her bent cigarette producing a wet vacuum and suctioned the fumes from the burning tip deep into her lungs. she exhaled smoke with every word she spoke for the entire length of her sentences. i felt my stomach churn.

the arrival of her young brother swept me out of the room and i felt relief. he was untouched by addiction and radiated health and optimism. the young man seemed excited by the rainbow of shoes and clothing to chose from for the shoot and i smiled for the first time since i'd stepped into the venue. fast forward and we are washed in a wave of flashes from the ravenous paparazzi as we walk to the stage. within minutes, lindsay and her mother have morphed into one person and they are dead. the paper thin corpse was instantly mummified from years of drug and alcohol abuse and was being passed over the heads of the attendees in an act of macabre crowd surfing.

when the body came close to me i was surprised to see beauty in the juxtaposition of the withered corpse and the falling lace of the designer gown it now wore.