Faces Down

“I think this song is about Jesus.”

“I wish it wasn’t.”

“Maybe it doesn’t have to be.”

She turns up the music and pretends the words mean more.

 

A spiky-haired woman stands at the bus stop. A teenage boy and girl walk next to her. The girl smokes a cigarette and walks up to the bench. She looks down the street to see if the bus is approaching.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She apologizes to the two women sitting on the bench.

“I didn’t see the ‘No Smoking’ sign.”

“Sorry y’all,” the teenage boy says with a wave of his arm dismissing the smoke and the incident.

“It’s a surprise anyone can see it,” says the woman holding two bags of groceries.

“Next time, just tell us to walk away and get that shit away from you,” Spiky Hair offers. She discusses plans with the teenage girl who is going to work on finishing her schooling and getting her cosmetology degree at the same time.

“I can do both,” she asks. Spiky Hair affirms with a simple “yep.”

They all ride the bus for fifteen blocks. Spiky Hair finds a woman she knows from her days at a halfway house.

“Is Shelly still there?”

“Shelly Padalecki? She sure is.”

“I always liked her. Tell her I say hi if you see her.”

“I will.”

Spiky Hair and the teenagers arrive at their bus stop. The teenagers walk out first. As Spiky Hair walks out, she says goodbye to her bus seat confrere.

“Good to see you again. Don’t forget to tell Shelly.”

“I won’t. Ellen, right?”

“Elena.”

“Right!”

“And you keep going hon. You are worth it. You can do it. Do it for yourself.”

Spiky Hair disembarks and joins the teenagers in the public transit sprint to her connecting bus.

 

Jon Foreman exclaims, “There’s gotta be something more than what I’m living for.”

“You’re sure that’s about Jesus?”

“Yup.”

“Can’t it be about something more?”

“Than what he’s singing for?”

“Exactly.”

“I suppose.”

“Are we in the say anything safe space?”

“Go for it.”

“What if I don’t really want a TV or smart phone or laptop or car or nice clothes? What if that doesn’t make me happy? How can I be happy when other people barely get by? Should I spend my life grabbing and grabbing with no thought to anybody else? Who really gives a fuck if I only have two outfits? Who cares? And why don’t we care instead that some people have one or none or a minimal amount of food? Why should I buy new furniture for my apartment when people die every winter due to exposure? What the fuck?”

She sucks in the nicotine and makes a mental calculation of her possessions. Her mind drifts in the silence between songs just before The Mr. T Experience shout their love for Paula Pierce.

 

Paper Moon

Last night, The Falcon and I went to the Paper Moon, Salt Lake’s preeminent lesbian bar. The bar holds open mic nights every Thursday starting around 9:30 or 10:00 pm (“Lesbian Standard Time” as they noted last night). I have a fear of not knowing what to do in new environments, so I convinced The Falcon to arrive at the bar at 8:15 pm (Mountain Standard Time). Few persons were there. Four women were playing pool. Two persons were at the bar, speaking to one another. Four men were wearing all black attire and were adorned in a way that I thought they would burst into spontaneous renditions of Dropkick Murphys songs with a side order of brawling. They requested “Vacation” by The Go-Gos. Go figure.

I ordered a Guinness in a bottle (which I believe is an early Christina O’Aguilera song) for myself and water with ice for The Falcon. We sat and talked until a comedian I recognized came in and joined us at the table. We all talked for a while until the next group of comics walked in and the open mic hosts arrived.

The open mic started with three lesbians playing a mix of original and cover songs (I recognized a song from Tegan & Sara’s The Con). The voices were smooth and beautiful. I flashed back to grad school when I spent much of my time at open mic nights performing originals, covers and improvised songs. The first comic went up and presented a stark contrast to the soothing beauty of the music. Four other comics went up and then it was time for me to move to the microphone.

I read a piece I created the day before entitled “The Mayor Apologizes.” The piece is a press conference involving a pit of King Cobras, some finger-pointing at an ex-con giraffe, deformed elementary school pole vaulters, disfigured babies and the invasion and near-immediate demise of a malevolent warlord.

It went as well as can be expected. In fact, I was pleased with the feedback from the audience.

I hope to make it back to the Paper Moon for open mic in the future as I find the friendliness highly appealing and conducive to trying new pieces and bits. Sadly, the late-night nature of the event could conflict with my professional life. I can barely stay awake today and I’m not even working.

If I find the will, perhaps I shall record the bit as a radio broadcast.

-J

New day

Our hero woke this morning with an odd sensation. The dragon was gone. He would not have to fight it today. In fact, he would no longer fight this particular dragon. He would move on to other lands and other vanquishable creatures.

This morn, he instead fought with an otherworldly machine forcing ones legs into an oval, elliptical pattern. Halfway through he realized he was becoming part of the machine, a cyborg. He was not fighting with the machine. He was fighting with himself. Could he really last 20 minutes per day three times per week?

Psychic anesthesia

I am listening to “Waitin’ For A Superman” on $40 headphones I purchased at an outlet mall.

I visit a place called City Creek the Mormon Church erected in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City. I find comfort and a disquieted mind in the sky-touching ceilings, the smooth futuristic flow and the glass, everywhere the glass. I am worshipping in a hypercapitalist cathedral simply by stepping into the place. I ooh and aah at the displays and the diamonds and the fountain. This place is only futuristic to 14-year-old me. To 32-year-old me it is simply uncomfortable present.

Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” is rich and haunting through the $40 headphones from a brand called Skull Candy.

I am now listening to “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth).” When I was a teenager I thought the song was meant to make one’s teeth hurt (which would mean the anesthesia wasn’t working I suppose). I believe I clung to this myth because Alan Nichols, a guy who could actually play some Metallica songs (or at least a couple of cool riffs) on guitar said so. Even now I imagine I feel my teeth ache to Cliff Burton’s distorted bass solo (take one).

I am sitting in a living room watching a one-hour video of logs burning in a fireplace.

I attend a rally at the Utah capitol building. The rally is for clean air. Many persons are wearing masks. Basic masks, gas masks, respirator masks.

I am living in the future. The air is too toxic for our present-day lungs. Reality is too much for our fragile bodies and psyches. Our fireplaces must be safe pixelations.

Bring an umbrella

I walk through the curtain of another year.

I sit and listen to Reflektor and find apposite poignancy.

Just before the curtain, I experienced the all-too-common occurrence of fear and rejection. A certain type of person, a certain group of persons, almost always operate in a mode of oppression and insecure narcissism. Those persons have honed a homing system that targets innovation and inquiry. Those persons cannot handle interrogatives and change. They feel stupid and see the weakness of their arguments in your inquisitiveness. Instead of letting go and drifting in the currents of wisdom and growth, they build dams of ignorance to stop the flow. They fear an unceasing tide of knowledge may erode ignorance and the old ways. So they buttress their own conservative quotidian tedium with these barricades of naysaying and imputations.

I found my own current blocked just days before balls dropped across the world. I raged and raged and saw the barrier more adamant than before. It would not crack before my force. This was a barrier erected prior to my existence and one that only the slower more patient river of time would destroy. So my stream of passion diverted into the darkened and potential-filled ocean of the New Year. I joined the new current smoothly, the deluge of spirits making easier this flow over ephemeral obstacles.

I know I will find more narrow straits, more dams, more dam builders (and dam fools) and other unforeseen blockades along the way. But I will not be resisted. I will rage when I need to rage. And I will trickle and flow steadily and assured of my purpose when necessary.

You might want to bring an umbrella.

-JPR