In The Pursuit of Leisure

24 August 2014

She drinks coffee. She pours liquid from the French press into a small coffee cup. She has an entire cupboard full of coffee mugs of all sizes. She has four coffee mugs on which various portions of the images disappear or transform when hot liquid flows into them.

Earlier in the day she took a drive. She rolled down the windows. She could feel fall sliding in to replace summer. Her hair was dry and would surely be in disarray when she arrived at her destination. Sunday was the day she used no additional products on her body. No deodorant. No conditioner. No hair gel. Toothpaste, soap and shampoo were the maximum allowable, although she would opt for sunscreen if she ventured into the sun for too long. (This was a rare occasion.)

She listened to Dead Kennedys at a loud volume as she zoomed down one of the city’s major arteries. (Would it be a vein now as it was pumping her toward the heart of the town?) Her heart was beating fast. She had no coffee so the pure adrenaline of pointed punk sonics left her shaking in a way in which she wasn’t often familiar. How much of her life was spent in the thick of caffeine rushes? She wasn’t convinced she ever had true feelings, feelings she could actually cleave from other substances (caffeine, tea, music, people). Did she need a holiday in Cambodia?

She bought the Sunday edition of a major newspaper from a corporate bookstore. She considered buying a coffee to go, but wanted the experience of making coffee at home, drinking several cups while listening to music and trying to get through the nearly insurmountable stack of news she now had in a bag. The woman ahead of her in line had a hand basket full of items. The clerk finished ringing in the woman’s items, completed the transaction and handed her the loot in a single bag. “All of it fit in one bag,” the woman asked with noticeable disbelief and reproof. “It all fit in one basket,” she thought as she stood in line empty-handed going over and over the precise words she would use to ask for the Sunday paper. (She wondered if Joe Jackson was reading the news at that very moment. She actually wondered if Joe Jackson was alive. An Internet search later would reveal he is alive and has moved on to “eclectic, though less commercially successful, pop/jazz/classical hybrids.” When she first heard Sugar Ray’s version of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” on the radio, she wanted to shout to everyone within earshot that Joe Jackson did it first and best and everyone should probably get on with the business of letting Sugar Ray fade into oblivion. She knew, however, that a lack of quality current taste for pop music and an atavistic longing for even the worst music of the 1990s would keep Sugar Ray in indefatigable and inevitable infinite rotation.)

She never finished the Sunday edition of the newspaper. She only cared to supplement her constant magazine reading with more in-depth analysis of recent events. She made her way through the voluminous text, ink staining her fingers and Deadmau5 ringing in her ears. At work she once made a joke upon hearing an upbeat electronica song that it reminded her of her clubbing days. She never had such days and probably never would, although in the interstices of her being lay secret notions that she could one day spend a week in Ibiza following the sweaty throng from club to club, dancing jumping gyrating to Oakenfold and taking club drugs and wearing very little.

The adrenaline had worn off. The coffee had kicked in. Her friends were at the pool. She was learning about the separate declared caliphates of the Islamic State and Boko Haram. The world is always and existence is constant until it isn’t. Inertia is an enemy; not so great as evil or even evil-disguised-as-good (religion), but certainly her biggest enemy. Television. Smart phone. Gaming apps. She partook in more opiates than Coleridge, but had none of the Khan-do attitude he had.

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.” So is a female sheep. I wonder which one provides a more comprehensive education.

—–

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 looks Native American. 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 insane 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).

-JPR

Purgatory in Salt Lake City

23 September 2012

I drive to work and finally make the switch away from OK Computer. I opt for Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm.

The plastic seal in the travel coffee mug lid is beginning to pop out. It prevents me from closing the lid all the way. As I drive and take a sip from the mug, coffee pours onto my shirt and lap. I am not burned, just bemused.

On the interstate, I drive south to work. Each morning, I pass a billboard with a picture of Orrin Hatch on it. The text reads, “With experience comes strength” and has his first name in cursive, as if he signed the billboard by hand, and his surname in print. I always flip the bird to this billboard because it enrages me. It should say, “With experience comes entrenched and moralistic judgement that is far removed from the life of the everyday person Senator Sign-His-Own-Billboard claims to represent.”

I take my exit and drive to the traffic light where I must turn left. I sit in the turn lane and watch the persons driving past me. I think about Mr. Hatch as I watch the drivers. Some wear sunglasses and some sing along to something they hear. We all do our best with what we have. Unfortunately, all some of us (e.g. Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc.) have are terrible tools designed only to build our own houses on the rubble of neighbourhoods around us.

On my lunch break, I decide to walk to Bakery and Brews, a coffee shop I have praised previously, for a pumpkin spice latte. I find the building locked and completely empty. No tables, no chairs, no magazine racks, no life. A few days later, the large banner with the shop’s name is gone from the building.

—-

I walk the two and one-half blocks to Red Rock Brewing Company to eat my favourite brunch item – The Eggs In Purgatory. I walk through the Gateway, past the Farmer’s Market in the blazing sun. I have sensitive eyes and no sunglasses. I am often ill-equipped for my circumstances.

I am in the comforting presence of strangers amid a cacophony of 1980s music (“I Want Your Sex”), knives attacking cutting boards, silverware clattering against itself and indecipherable conversations.

I order water without ice and with a lemon, coffee (black) and Eggs In Purgatory. The coffee is good enough. It is watery and mild allowing me to drink several cups before shitting myself.

I do not know why the eggs are in purgatory. I feel some Christian sects allow for the purity of organisms that are never birthed. Yet, these eggs were so sinful (or just sinful enough) that they find themselves in limbo, denied bliss and near damnation. I devour them in the hopes this gustatory grace will end their torment.

Persons from the True Value convention dine here. The men wear khaki or navy blue slacks (probably Haggar or Dockers), polos or long-sleeve light-blue dress shirts.

The meal is as good as I remember.

I take a bite of bacon and a sip of coffee as my former neighbour, Dan, instructed me to do. I once enjoyed a gin and tonic with Dan on his balcony at our apartment building in the Avenues of Salt Lake City.

I leave Red Rock to adjourn to The Rose coffee shop. The location used to be Big City Soup. I was disappointed in the change at first, but now feel pleased. The space is open, the coffee is good and the clientele are 92-percent hipster. I spy a woman I used to know when I lived here the first time. Her hair is much longer now.

I am overstimulated with the action here. Persons moving, talking, catching up, calling one another “sleepy head.” My cappuccino has a flower-shape in the foam. Perhaps it is more of a leaf. Either way is OK.

A man wears a NASA t-shirt. His legs are veiny. A child walks in and makes noise on a harmonica. He plays the same note, in and out and repeat ’til death do us part.

Sleepy head orders iced coffee and toast. I hope the choice rejuvenates and prepares her for the day ahead.

Another small child walks in holding the hand of a grown-up. This child is not making noise on a harmonica. She is being quiet and respectful and looking around with curiosity in her eyes.

A person may wish to be in a park on a day like today, but I am not easily fooled. I know the sun is out there, waiting to make me warm and hard of seeing.

Another familiar woman walks in. I am stuck in a hipster time warp, riding my fixed-gear bicycle down memory lane.

One woman at the coffee bar says, loud enough for all to hear, “Time is the most valuable thing on the planet.”

The conversation dies down. The sound of crockery clanking increases. I get up and leave.

Scribbles and bits

20 August 2011

It is technically the 21st. I know this fact. I do not mind.

At approximately 8:30 PM I used the coffee maker to brew a pot of coffee. I then drank four cups with the intention of staying up, listening to music through my headphones and writing a bit.

And, so here I am.

I just signed up to take the GRE in September. As soon as the purchase order went through (at the discounted rate of $80 as opposed to $160) I almost began banging my skinny fists on my table/desk in pure exhilaration.

At the end of earning my Master of Arts, I was convinced I would never want to return to school. Yet, events over the past six years continue to pull my heart in the scholastic direction.

So, at some point in the next two years, I will attend graduate school again, with the hopes of trying my hand (and fingers) at creative writing.

I don’t consider myself a top-notch writer, nor do I even believe I have something clever or original to say. I just like saying stuff.

I read the writing of my friends JP and MP and GF and I think they are so strong and unique and interesting. They continually feed my passion for words and language.

Writing for me is a tactile experience (as is making music). Fingers on keyboard, pen in hand and on paper. Writing feels right.

Pizza my mind

18 August 2011

Last night I bought a miniature frozen pizza. Today I ate it. It was horrible.

Someone recommended I purchase good frozen pizza.

If I’m going to get frozen pizza, I want it to taste terrible. I have no illusions. If I want real pizza, I’ll get real pizza. Frozen pizza should make me hate myself more than I normally do. I should regret each bite as I angrily and incessantly chew it down until it is just moist doughy mush in my mouth.

Here is a picture of a simple meal I enjoyed at a restaurant in OgdenLayton, UT.

I always order from the senior menu