Who’s Your Friend when Things Get Rough

Lonely cabins in the woods are so last century. The next big horror blockbuster should be set at the New York International Gift Fair, where a killer stalks the endless aisles of novelty crap, wiping out any vestige of good taste. If Freddy Krueger had shown up at any point over the past few days and flashed his demonic manicure, I can’t say I would have been very fast on my feet. Exhausted, sick, distracted, and overwhelmed, I might have committed seppuku on his pointy fingernail if it weren’t for my buyer, Luana, keeping our spirits up and our progress organized.

I haven’t been to New York in a long time. The cab drivers still talk incessantly on their cell phones-to whom I don’t know, but they must have killer rate plans. The streets are as crowded as ever and still alternate between smelling of sewage and of garbage. They’re still building the Mormon Hideout behind our apartment on Eighty-eighth Street, the drills and hacksaws buzzing to life at an uncivilizedly [sic] early hour. Those blasted Mormons and their work ethic!

God only knows what Rob gets up to every week when he comes to stay. The Ikea bureau that collapsed last summer is still in a heap in the corner. He’s probably not having an affair because there is a DVD of “H.R. Pufnstuf” on the shelf, and I am the only person I know who would have an affair with someone who owns a DVD of “H.R. Pufnstuf.”

Oh, wait, here’s Mr. Krueger now. More later.



On Sunday, I surprised Rob with a road trip to Burkittsville, Maryland, site of the the jittery cinematic legend known as The Blair Witch Project. I had been there before, soon after the movie was released, and witnessed the small town as a hotbed of rustic capitalism, the front porch of every house festooned with authentic Blair Witch paraphernalia at cutthroat prices.

By this visit, Burkittsville had settled back into ominous quiet. A beautiful little village with one stop sign, there was nonetheless something eerie about it. “We should get out and walk around,” Rob remarked. But I didn’t want to, and shortly thereafter, he agreed. There was no commerce. There was nobody visible on the streets or in the houses. There was nothing at all welcoming about it; indeed, despite the bright and sunny afternoon, it couldn’t have been more forbidding, a Shirley Jackson story come to life.

Earlier that day, Rob and I had had another creepy moment. Our new next-door neighbors came by and mentioned that they are having part of the tree between our back yards cut off, as those branches are apparently a favorite vantage from which the neighborhood birds like to poop on their porch. The tree is actually in our yard and merely overhangs theirs. It is the largest tree on the block, and it shades our houses in the summer. When I wake up in the morning, I look at its branches silhouetted against the sky. Goblin’s squirrels scramble up and down and around the trunk at all hours. It’s not the most beautiful tree in the world, but it’s there, and it’s established, and it’s the focal point of our garden, and while I don’t dispute the neighbors’ right to cut whatever hangs over their yard, I found the discussion oddly disquieting.

“We’ve been talking to everyone about it, and they say it’s just a weed anyway,” they said. Of course, they haven’t been talking to everyone about it. Two notable people, Rob and I, were left out of that particular loop. “Everyone we talked to wanted to know why anyone would let a weed grow into a tree,” they went on, then offered to go halfsies with us on having the entire thing removed. I felt suddenly like Dorothy, faced with Almira Gulch’s picnic basket.

Okay, so it’s a weed. But it’s my weed, and Rob’s and Goblin’s and the squirrels’, and, yes, the birds’.

People are coming this week to saw off some of its branches, but the weed, um, I mean tree, will live on.



I was cleaning up my hard drive before work this morning and discovered something that I wrote, inexplicably, about four years ago, before I started this web log. Dated April 9, 2002, it is the only entry in a file called “Journal.” The gods only know what I was thinking, but given the date, I do know that I was living in Jackson Heights at the time, and I was most likely not intoxicated on anything.

I am a tree that will be a wooden heart. The heart is smooth, ridged wood that has been worn smooth by water in the distant past. In the top is a golden orange key that has already been turned. The heart is unlocked for anyone who would care to open it. Remove the key, and it swings open, revealing darkness and the fleeting flash of color, the image of a 14th century painting, people in vivid robes carrying gold and riches. The image is gone and there is hollowness, not aching but sad and quiet.

I am the tree from before the heart. I stand alone on a small hill but surrounded by other trees. The forest is around me, but I’m not in it. My roots extend down into it, but that is all. Behind the other trees is water I can see. The sunlight flashes off of it, but it doesn’t hurt my eyes because it hits the other trees first. It is late afternoon on a still summer’s day.

I stand on the hill, silent and alone. My roots are thick and extend in all directions, but not beyond the hill. They have the slow business of bringing in nutrients, and there are a lot of them, but it’s like sucking ice cream through a straw. They won’t come in. My sap is old and tired, thick and gummy, it does not flow, or at a glacial pace at the most. It does not reach the outer branches or the leaves, which whirl around me but will never fall off. They have told me that they are jealous of the air, which does as it pleases. Today, the air is still and sparkly. My leaves want to fall up, to be free, but we are so rooted. We don’t remember what it’s like, we only remember that we don’t remember.

Around me are happy trees, ignorant trees. They don’t know what I know. I tried to tell them, but they talk about me behind their hands. They are younger. They don’t have hills of their own yet. They will go their whole lives without building one. I will go my whole life regretting mine.


Okay, Gee Bee?

In case you use AOL, MSN, or Yahoo, it may interest you to know that these Internet companies have just turned over your personal search-engine results to the Kremlin, um, I mean the United States government. Without a fight. Only Google has refused to comply, forcing the U.S. Department of Justice to file a motion in federal court to compel them to do so. While the Justice Department claims, publicly anyway, that it is not seeking identifying information on who entered the search strings, coming on the heels of the latest warrantless eavesdropping scandal and other privacy outrages over the years (Total Information Awareness, anyone?), this paints a chilling portrait of a government that distrusts you so much that it is preemptively building a hidden case against you.

Luckily, I have no secrets. All of the juicy details of my life over the past four years have been documented in this journal.

Those of you who have not noticed any juicy details over the past four years have hit upon a problem more horrifying than America’s transformation into a secret police state:


Update: I forgot to tell you that the government’s excuse is that they are trying to enforce a law that would make it mandatory for pornography web sites to not be accessible to children. While this is believable on its face-given the Ashcroft Justice Department’s obsession with banning legal pornography over catching, you know, terrorists who kill people-it is also believable that once the information is put to this use, if it is put to this use, it can be put to any other use they desire. More eerily, it is also setting a precedent for the clandestine seizing of records from private companies for the use of building secret cases against Americans.

Update 2: Yup. Still boring.


Democracy at Work

Just now, I accidentally read a chunk of this weblog from two years ago and was struck by the idea that although my sanity level seems to be about the same,* my writing was both better and more comprehensive. As a writer, I am devolving. Soon, like the character in Misery, whose typewriter keys quit one by one as a madwoman cut off his feet, I will be nearly unintelligible.** Cases can be made that I am either lacking in practice, or that I have run aground and have nothing more to say.

So, anyway, show of hands. Who thinks I need to write here more often?

Okay. Hmm.

And who thinks I need to give into inertia and call it quits?

Uh huh. Interesting.

And who thinks that Servilia of the Junii was barking mad when she invoked the gods of the inferno to curse Caesar and Atia, the first for ending their affair and the second for engineering it?

I thought so.


* Still running on empty.

** Yes, yes, just like a Republican.


Shall We Overcome?

Yesterday was my brother’s birthday and Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday (observed). I would like all of my birthdays to be (observed), but instead of one day away, possibly several years. My thirty-fifth will be a national holiday in 2097.

Seriously . . . as I live only a few blocks from both a major boulevard bearing his name and a wasteland of desolate inner-city neighborhoods, I think about Dr. King a lot, and his unfinished work. The era that he embodied was a time of monumental obstacles to justice and freedom, but it seems also to have been a time of tremendous hope of something good coming. From the way I have seen it described (because, of course, I wasn’t born until 1987), history itself was a progressive force, buoying the efforts of a brave few with the idea that, eventually, their common-sensical ideas would not appear so radical.

It is interesting to note that, with the rate history seems to have speeded up on a daily level, we are still subject to its underlying currents. Those who were confidently dismissed as being on the wrong side of history in the 1960s have spent the intervening years consolidating their power and now are back with a vengeance, running the world. It’s like the Empire has been building its new Death Star behind the scenes, and now Emperor Cheney has sprung it on us. Only in our universe, Luke Skywalker has been discredited with a series of nasty campaign commercials.

These things happen, I suppose. The seesaw of progress and repression totters back and forth every few centuries or decades. Only now, with the fate of the world in the hands of an Orwellian death cult, I wish I could say that I had a lot of hope that things will swing our way again.


‘Til You Drop

On the fourth day of last week (counting from Monday)—or possibly the fifth day (counting from Sunday)—I entered my four-wheeled road vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine and transported myself (and it) to the local enclosed building containing shops, restaurants, and other businesses and facilities serving the general public, where I intended to exchange currency for fabric that covers the body and is arranged into pleasing new configurations for the upcoming season.

The mall is hideous—a wasteland—but it was the only place I could think of to buy clothing that would make me look moderately presentable at work and beyond. The clothes at the hemp store look like ill-fitting planetary uniforms worn by Star Trek aliens, and I have never gotten the rhythm of thrift shopping, where the secret is to buy clothes that did not go out of fashion recently enough to have been the ones I just donated, or long enough ago that people will think I have been saving my high school wardrobe until it returns triumphantly into vogue.

Christmas money was burning a hole in my pocket, but it might as well have bored a hole into the center of the earth for all the good it did me. This season at the Banana Republic is such a snoozefest that the most riveting thing I encountered there were the naked male mannequins (can anyone say “dress left”?). Express for Men was overrun by cardboard boxes filled with their entire inventory from last season, on clearance. All of the shirts and pants that I wanted but didn’t buy this fall looked about as appealing as stale Captain Crunch in this undignified situation. I could not even be bothered to breathe in the direction of the Gap, except I did walk past it on the way to Dairy Queen.

Boy’s gotta eat. I mean, young male humanoid requires solid sustenance ingested orally.


Old Year, Young Me

Is it 2006 already? Last time I checked, it was 2015, and the radioactive cockroaches were sunning themselves on the tropical beaches of Topeka, Kansas. Of course, I am living backward in the timestream, like Merlin and Boy George. January is a month for contemplation. Right now, I am contemplating why lightbulbs have become my enemy.

Tomorrow, I will contemplate algo mas.


New Year, New You

Yesterday was my day off of work and I spent this rare and luxurious personal time at, um, work. Today was my other day off of work and I spent it taking Goblin Foo to a noted local animal behaviorist, who analyzed her vagaries of her personality with the precision of a very precise instrument, such as a tricorder. I would like to have a tricorder but I don’t because I am using Cingular and they only make tricorders for Verizon. Anyway, I must be the only one who has wondered how Mr. Spock got so many volumes of information out of two flashing LEDs and a high-pitched ring tone.

So Goblin is sort of a Problem Dog, but really she’s not. She’s sweet and brilliant and would like to eat your child for dinner, as long as your child is organic and free range. Daddy’s little girl.