That’s not my dad, that’s Morrissey.

26 March 2013

The Hippo/Falcon and I returned home yesterday from our trip to Phoenix. I spent a little time exploring Phoenix. Once the board meeting was complete, we drove to Vegas for a night before heading back to Salt Lake City.

Let’s start with Phoenix.

Walking Phoenix – I sit around the hotel room and watch something called “March Madness” in which a group of sports teams play basketball in order to win some sort of championship. Most, if not all, fans of this event complete what are called “brackets,” which do not refer to punctuation, but instead refer to a game of prognostication to predict the winner of the madness. I clap at one point when a human male makes a “sweet three-pointer.” I decide to leave the hotel.

I know where to find a Starbucks coffee shop, but I want to find something local where all the college kids hang out (Arizona State University is right down the street for fuck’s sake). I walk to the front desk at the hotel and ask if there are good coffee shops around.

“Not really,” says the front desk clerk as she shakes her head to indicate the negative.

“Are there any good bars around,” I inquire. She consults her comrades and notes The Canyons is a good bar. I had been to The Canyons the night before and didn’t want to limit the scope of my travels to the same place right away. I thank her for the information and leave the lobby.

I walk into the warm and breezy Phoenix day. This is Saturday. I expect the sidewalks to be crowded with students and regular humans enjoying a warm day. What I see is space and emptiness. I feel the openness and lack of cluster that is Phoenix in the area surrounding Van Buren and 5th Street. The city is open and warm and I can probably walk with my eyes closed and not bump into another person. I meander by the public transportation rail line. The cars look like old, silver railroad cars. I want to ride, but decide to keep walking. I walk to the park. A gigantic creation that is a series of nets in the shape of a descending tornado is secured by giant cables. I assume this is the centerpiece of the park. (It is.) I walk on past, well, nothing really. I see a courthouse and several areas where one can catch sporting events or a play. I see hotels. Most of what I see is colored yellow and brown and white and made to look like adobe buildings. On occasion, I believe I am in Florida as the colors jump into aquamarines and sea foam greens and purples.

I find an establishment called Chloe’s Corner. Like the rest of the area I see, the place is open. I see a salad bar, a bar resembling a diner (complete with barstools and food service), a separate wine bar, a patio and a huge dining room. A quick scan of the menu board assures me I can order coffee in this place. I walk to the counter and order a 16 oz cappuccino.

“Is that your dad,” asks the man taking my order. I am puzzled for a moment before looking down and seeing the button I am wearing. The Hippo/Falcon’s brother, Adamantium, made a button for me. This button simply has Morrissey’s face, looking casually glum.

“No. That’s Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths.” I always have to include the defining information, much to my chagrin. How can everyone in the world not love Morrissey in the same way I do? (To be fair, I did not discover the music of Morrissey until I was in graduate school. I started with You Are The Quarry and have never looked back.) The person behind the counter laughs and apologizes. He gives me a card with a number on it and I find a place to sit. Someone different brings my cappuccino to me. I assume she finds me because the number I have (20) must correspond with my order. Fascinating and efficient.

I sip the warm beverage and take in the beauty and calm of the day. I begin proofreading the novel I wrote last November as part of National Novel Writing Month. I make notations. I look outside at the people walking around. They wear shorts. They hold hands. They smoke cigarettes. I finish my cappuccino, go to use the restroom and leave, back out into the warm day. I walk around and feel the pleasure of sweating in the heat, happy to be out of the depressing winter chill of Salt Lake City.

Deciding I have walked enough to earn lunch and a beer, I choose comfort and walk to the outdoor shopping mall for lunch at The Canyons (the place we went for dinner the previous night). I order a local beer (Epicenter) and a Caesar salad done Southwestern style (the dressing is slightly spicy and tortilla chip pieces are piled on top of the lettuce). I sit and read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and enjoy the pleasure of sitting outside. I am anonymous and at ease.

Later, I plan to meet The Hippo/Falcon and her colleagues at a bar/restaurant in a downtown hotel. I arrive early and go to the bar. I order a dark draft beer. I pay the bartender and begin sipping the beer. The March Madness is on television. I go for another sip of beer. The glass catches on the napkin. In my panic, I slosh a cup full of beer onto the bar, my khaki pants and my chair. The bartender gives me napkins. I wipe up. The stains slowly disappear into my pants. Magic. I look up and the bartender has refilled the beer to the top. “Hey, from one guy who spills stuff to another.” I give him another dollar as a tip.

The group arrives and we all eat dinner. We drink and laugh and tell stories.

We walk back to the hotel in the coolness of the desert evening. We fall asleep.

The next day, I watch the March Madness on television before packing up the car, driving to a parking garage and going to Starbucks for coffee while I wait for the board meeting to conclude. I eat lunch at a sushi restaurant/noodle house. I order shrimp ramen and a salmon roll. I continue reading.

The Hippo/Falcon finishes her duties. We walk to the car and decide to drive to Las Vegas for the night.

But that’s a story for next time.

Where am I?

12 November 2012

Are you wondering where I am?

I am here. I am listening to Pines by A Fine Frenzy. I purchased this album through a program called iTunes. On iTunes, which is spelled with a lower case “I,” you can purchase full albums or individual songs.

A couple of weekends ago I went into a Barnes & Noble bookstore. These still exist. In these shops of the past one can purchase compact discs with music burned on to them using lasers. (This may or may not be the process of putting information onto a CD.) I had the odd realisation (which I am sure many of you had in 1996) that the day of hard copy music is done and is pointless. Why would I spend $17.99 on 12 songs when I can purchase the same 12 songs for $8.99? Physical music as a commodity is impractical. I am ready for the future, but I do mourn the past just a little bit out of nostalgic obligation.

I am drinking a Murphy’s Irish stout and looking out at a snow covered Salt Lake City.

Since the beginning of the month, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. I have written nearly 25,000 words, which puts me about halfway to the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.

I have not worked on Cone Alone, much to the chagrin of many of you. I promise it will return, but I haven’t been ready. I will announce a winner of the summer holiday photo series. I will probably come up with something clever like, “Hey everyone, sorry for any delays, but there was a lot of summer construction and most of us were working overtime. Now we’re back and ready to…” you know, something like that. It will be back. I promise. Thank you for loving it so far. It will love you back soon.

In the meantime, why not purchase Pines by A Fine Frenzy and think about love and friendship and sadness?


The Pariah of Aquimon (on the kind-of-big screen)

21 October 2012

Earlier this year, I participated in the 72 Hour Script Fest. I had to write a seven-page screenplay for a short film in 72 hours. I had three criteria:

  • Setting – the forest
  • Genre – Sci-fi
  • Central thematic element – spilling coffee on oneself

In a basement in Ogden, UT, in the house of The Hippo’s parents, I brought forth The Pariah of Aquimon.

I submitted my script and ended up one of the 30 finalists. This meant, a team (or teams) would pick my script as their criteria for the 72 Hour Film Fest.

I learned during the competition that a group of three 17-year-olds and two 19-year-olds had picked my script and were filming their adaptation.

You can see the film, by Ashley Ellis Productions, here.




Through the desert and into the future.

7 October 2012

I drink coffee from my Wonder Woman coffee mug and listen to Rachael Yamagata’s eponymous EP. I discover this album while walking around Athens, GA one day. I stop into SchoolKids Records (which I believe is now defunct), walk over to the listening station and press play. I am hooked from the moment the drums pump into my ears.


We are in Wendover with The Hippo’s parents and Adamantium. Wendover is a gambling city on the border of Utah and Nevada. Wendover is the line between blond men and women who wear magic underwear and old women in short skirts and corsets selling drinks to adults mesmerised by instant opportunity and flashing robots.

We stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats rest stop. We take pictures. Three persons ask The Hippo to take their photograph. The lone woman in the group compliments The Hippo on her necklace, which is a coat hanger symbolising America’s dark past (and present) of limits on access to abortion. Adamantium and I throw rocks onto the salty ground. The Hippo and I race toward the distant mountains as a joke. As we run, we note that the distance we run for the joke is equal to the distance we have to return to the car and reality. We stop in our tracks and walk back. If only the Donner Party had our adherence to reason and understanding of our own limits.

Ready to get on with our own hopeless venture into quick riches, we return to the car. The car does not start. The Hippo’s dad thinks the car hates him. We wait for 10 minutes, which is the trick to get the car started again. We have to wait for two 10-minute sessions before we can proceed. We are only nine miles from Wendover.

The drive is sagebrush, white salt flats, hazy mountains, yellow wildflowers and brown rocks. A train chugs parallel in the distance. All the train cars are the same.


I move on to Xiu Xiu’s Women As Lovers. Wonder Woman looks at me suggestively with her lasso of truth over her shoulder like a trench coat she is ready to remove. Now I feel strange about drinking coffee from a hole in her head. Maybe this is how she gets her kicks. After all, William Moulton Marston wasn’t the most conventional guy.


We arrive in Wendover and drive to the Peppermill straightaway for lunch. Darkness. Sounds. Flashing. Buzzing. There is no time here. Smoke. Money going down the drain. I order breakfast. Neon and fake light and dimness. Reds. I imagine vampires would/do live here.

I know we are in the right spot when we all have our first sighting of an old woman in a shiny cap (gold).

We sit around the table after our meal and catch up on one another’s lives. We have not all been together for a couple of weeks now. The casual chat is to become my favourite part of the outing. I joke that my meal of eggs, chicken-fried steak, hashbrowns and toast will provide me the energy I need for gambling. I forget the more energy I have, the less tolerable gambling seems. I wish I had chosen a more enervating meal. Later, I have a mildly dulling gin and tonic. It is not enough.

An older woman in the restaurant wears a sweatshirt. On the back and at the bottom (assuming she is wearing the sweatshirt properly) is the word “cute.” The “U” is red to indicate support for and allegiance to the University of Utah, which is called “The U.”


I lay awake last night trying to think of a comedy bit about the need to throw all religious leaders in jail and why pastors are, in many ways, more dangerous than imprisoned criminals.


We split up after lunch to throw away our money. I play games called Rich Girl (which I was sure would be my ticket out of debt) and Mine Mine. The Hippo plays a game called Fiesta Chihuahua. She wins a bonus and piñatas fill the screen! Lights flash! Bonus spins activate! Five bonus spins!

She wins a quarter.

The game is in Spanish. We press the translation button and “ganancia” becomes “winnings” and “winnings” become zero (which is the same in both languages).

I order a cappuccino from a tiny, pregnant woman whose nametag indicates I can call her Joceline. I remember our lunch server says, “Thank you so much” at least 50 times during the meal and flashes a large, toothy grin just as frequently.

I spend $17 on gambling. I set aside $20, but it just seems I should not continue. I look forward to the dinner buffet, as I have never had a buffet in a gambling city.

A man works here. He wears an oversize green jacket with the sleeves hanging at least three inches over his hand. The Peppermill is out of rooms. The Rainbow has rooms for $180 per night.


I get up to pee. Is it a good idea to drink coffee after 6:00 pm when I need to go to sleep by 11:00 pm? If she knows any better, Wonder Woman certainly isn’t saying.


We visit Blue Boutique, a store geared toward sex-related items (books, clothing, games and videos). We look at parody porn videos. One is based on Superman. Upon looking at the back of the box, the parody seems to have little to do with Superman except for one scene in which a man wears a knock-off Superman costume. The store contains edible clothing and a book about anal sex positions. The book confuses me, because I imagine anal sex positions would be the same positions as vaginal sex, just with a slightly different location. But then again, I grew up Southern Baptist, so what do I know?

We leave the Blue Boutique and drive to the liquor store. We clearly want to get in as much sin as possible before returning to Utah. I buy a red wine called Vampire. On the back of the bottle is a quote from Lord Byron. The clerk at the store asks if I’m here for the concert hall. I say no. She says Cheech and Chong are playing, which I know from the advertisements. She says she does not like them. She says they are too old to be making marijuana jokes.

We go to the Montego Bay for dinner. We eat at the Oceano Buffet. The persons working at the buffet wear black pants and blue shirts with images of fish printed on them. The carpet has images of fish. The light fixtures feature images of palm trees and the lampshades are covered in thatch. We eat in a tropical simulacrum in some strange, lazy future. The neon signs tell me where I can find DESSERT, ASIAN, SEAFOOD, BBQ, CARVING and PIZZA. The food is exactly what I hoped it would be. I eat shrimp prepared in five different ways.

We eat and get to the real reason we are at a table in a shiny, reflective aluminum dis/utopia: catching up some more. We talk about school and writing and online gaming and enjoy one another’s company as my stomach wonders why a person would choose to eat shrimp in so many different forms when it is just going to destroy them (the shrimp) with acid before sending the results to oblivion.

The Hippo’s parents and Adamantium wander back in to the casino. The Hippo and I sit and talk. I drink coffee. I get sleepier the more coffee I drink. We get up and walk over to the Wendover Nugget. We get there via sky bridge.  No reason to go outside. I find something oddly appealing about traveling with no need to be out-of-doors.

I finally win at a game called Fast Food. The bonus round involves feeding a hungry man different foods with various point values. I learn the soda always has a high point value. I feel smug and disturbed.

We all meet back up and begin the drive home through the alien, desert landscape. In the distance are the lights of the waste-treatment facility. We breeze through Tooele, UT, where my friend Justin and I stopped one night in 1999.

I could not have predicted I would end up living in Utah twice in my adult life. I am here and I have a second family. I am in the midst of mountains that care as little of my life as the trees with which I was raised. I am in the midst of a religion just as deadly as the one I know from childhood. I am just as alive in the sere browns as I am in the verdant greens.

Somehow, I am still home (and only out $20).