Posts Tagged ‘fragments’


Posted: January 20, 2011 in travel
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a while since I rapped at ya, but as my writing hasn’t been quite ‘riviting’ lately I sort of let the whole stupid blog thing slip away… until now…

fragments: six months in a hundred and sixty seconds

Death in June. I’m sitting in a bar in Shanghai, chatting with a fifty-something British man who’s been teaching here for four years. We’re talking about our respective recent travels, and girls, and gristly bits, and random nefarious goings-on around the world. He’s quite smart and open, in an oddly sullen way. "I used to be like you," he says, ashing his cigarette on the floor, "back when I was young, dumb and full of cum. Now I’m just old, dumb and full of cum…" I smile. He drains the last of his Hoegaarden and looks up. "Here, lemme getcha a beer…"

Nine weeks later, I’m six weeks into a twelve week gig, averaging somewhere around 62 hours a week, not counting side work. I’m tired but the numbers are adding up in my head in interesting ways, like: "twelve times fifteen… times six-point-eight… divide by eighty… yep, I made enough for 20 hours of Laotian massage today…". Head-strong.

‘Cross season hits. I’m gluing tubulars at an astounding rate, going through cans of cement in the manner a truck driver in the 1970s might go through Dexamyl.

Halloween. I’m wandering around Chico, California with two other fellow humans. We’re pointing and laughing and staring and drooling and telling jokes that no one understands.

November comes. Loneliness, neurosis and uncertainty, like some evil dream that’s lost it’s luster. My smoking and drinking seem to have reached a level that makes Keith Richards look like Jack LaLane.

Thanksgiving eve. I’m doing shots of Fernet with friends on the Embarcadero, on a bike ride around the city to visit the friendliest bartenders in SF. The sun is shining on my face as I close my eyes and exhale. John owns the joint and he’s pretty happy today. "Get to close tomorrow, get to have a day off! Haven’t waxed the floor in this place since last year," he says, pouring that black, herbal foolishness into the glasses. "…pretty excited about that floor… here, this round’s on me…" We drink to the floor.

Twelve hours later, I’m walking out of Whiskey Thieves, alone. It’s bartime and I’m restless and bored and it smells like piss in the Tenderloin, like it always does. I come across a tweaker on his hands and knees, eyes wide, searching for something on the ground.

"what’s up man?"
"dude…. I… I just dropped like six hits of acid…."
I nod for a moment. "far out, man."
"no… NO…. you don’t understand", he says, waving his open palm up and down in spastic motion with each sylabil, "I just DROPPED six hits of acid! like, on the sidewalk, man!"
"oh. that sucks…"

In a bizarre turn of events, I buy some 4-Lokos with the last $20 in my pocket and chill with the crackheads and tweakers all night. I learn some things, namely, what 4-Loko is like (or was like — apparently they’ve pulled it off the shelves?) and that it is more valuable than crack to the crackheads, who all offer me their crack in exchange for one. Ever look in the shopping cart of a bum? Not so bad, right? Ever look in the shopping cart of a speed freak? It’s scary as hell, and that’s coming from a veteran trashspotter…

December first. I’m canceling a flight I’m supposed to be on in three hours with tears in my eyes. My brain is an idiot, and if I’ve been working for the last eighteen weeks, my bank account sure doesn’t seem to reflect it.

Hanukkah dinner. I’m making grapefruit Negronis in a palatial house in the Oakland Hills that smells like expensive shampoo. Someone asks if I know how to make Liquid Cocaines. I do. I’m rocking the shaker back and forth, my thoughts drifting back to Thanksgiving and that guy named Tim with three teeth left in his jaw and a cart full of garbage. The latkes are superb.

I’ve found myself twisting up and down hills every day, perhaps sweeter for the larceny of time. I’m burning through the Piedmont cemetery in the big ring of a thirty-pound, five-inch travel 29er, a ludicrous bike completely out of it’s element, more akin to a motocross machine than a bicycle. My eyes are red behind euro-trash shades, slamming to drone metal, an album from Boris called Pink that still blows my mind every time I listen to it. The opening scene to Gummo pops into my head. I’m smiling.

I’m having a geek session in Albany, learning about Arduino boards with a man who lived and worked with my father half a lifetime ago.

I’m in San Diego at an entomology conference, calm, sober as a Turk and wearing a tailored shirt. I get the feeling most of the people here will never leave school until they stop being paid to do so, not a bad thing in and of itself but certainly not phronetic education. A professor asks where I go to school. "I haven’t been in school since 2004", I say, not defining the nature of why. "So you’re a flunk-out, huh?" Interesting response… I’m tempted to react badly to this seemingly caustic remark but smile as I respond instead. "Well, since 2004 I’ve been to something like twenty-two countries, co-founded a business that is still successful, and not acquired a single dime of debt. Yes. I’m a flunk-out." He turns out to be a pretty nice guy.

New Years Eve. I’m back in Madison on a whim, going from spit-roasting a goat to a quiet bourbon to a farewell to Magnus to a few dance parties, then prancing to the A-bar. Ruthless efficiency, followed by huevos rancheros.

Two days later: a plane to catch. Seoul. A city of neon and barbecue and androgynous mens shoes.

I seem to whirlwind through cities sometimes. No greater monster than reason. I’m today. He’s yesterday.


Let’s shift gears a bit. Lets get weird and do weird stuff. Lets start dialogs and ask questions. Lets find cool bands and DJs and throat-singers and music geeks and sample them for all they’re worth. Lets stop just writing one-night-stories and start writing whatever the hell we feel like. Lets chew the gristle with the fat, lets make the waste into confit. Lets find interesting people and grill them, savor their responses off the skewer… or hey, for that matter, lets get literal and find interesting cooks and steal their recipes. LETS BAKE COOKIES! Lets find more new stuff and try it. Lets live off of pennies but be rich, lets sneak in the back door, lets hit on the bouncer to get in, lets try harder. Lets stop looking at work as the means to do what we want and instead just do what we want, hell, lets make the work what we want in the first place. Lets share more. Lets wing it.

Lets live…