It’s a Beautiful Night

Once upon a love, under diamond studded skies draped in nimbus negligee, two lovers drank cheap Moscato in a park overlooking the city, chain-smoking Kools and flicking the still-lit butts towards downtown hoping a strong west-wind would pick one up and drop it on the silk dress of some floozy who just got done saying like for the 47th time, setting her dress aflame as douchebags, who’ve blown hot air at her and her ilk all night, fan the flames, setting off a chain reaction that travels down each alley, each smoking section, into each bar and club, setting the city’s night life ablaze for days, until all the ego and vanity burns away.

“It’s a beautiful night to watch the world burn,” his lover says before taking the last sip of Moscato and smashing the bottle on the ground.

“I love you,” he replies.

Advertisements

A Cardboard Chest Filled with Fool’s Memories

I left work early today, nearly quitting, in an anxious rush to get home. Of course, the elevator down from my office on the top floor hit each stop, gradually filling up with five people, which, to me, is overcapacity. One coworker asked if I wanted to go get sushi with her. I absolutely didn’t want to. I didn’t even want to talk to her. Or see her. But not because of her. She’s nice. It’s because of me. It’s always because of me. The fact that I had to talk to her was my fault–I broke my own rule which prohibits my anxious mind from using the elevator outside specified times: usually at 11:47, 1:47 or 4:47, or sometime thereabout. All other times I take the stairs, but I have to take the elevator when I leave because our company’s bike rack is on the bottom floor, in the lobby. I could take the stairs down, walk through the front door, buzz in, grab my bike, buzz out, but the times I’ve done so wound up drawing even more attention than the elevator so I’m fucked either way.

I hurried to my bike, hurried out, and hurried to the bike path I take to downtown Redwood City. My life is a just a series of protracted hurried events.

I pulled up to the train station as my train left. Fuck, the next train doesn’t come for an hour–an hour of idle time my current mind state shouldn’t have for the sake of my liver and sanity. Luckily, it’s blazing hot outside, and I have an hour bike ride after the train, and while a drunken bike ride in the early evening is amazing, a drunken bike ride in midday heat is unbearable.

After smoking five or six cigarettes, my train came. It was empty and beautiful; I even managed to read a few backlogged Jorge Luis Borges short stories.

My bike ride home was speedy but relatively uneventful.

I got to my house, and walked straight to my garage, where the real battle commenced.

Don’t drink. Don’t drink. Don’t drink.

I’ll clean my garage.

My housemates just had a baby–a beautiful little girl that fills my mind with much needed this is what life’s about(s)–so our garage resembles a small BuyBuyBaby warehouse.

I love to organize things. It’s the perfect activity/work for an anxious person with a hectic life. This box goes here, this one goes there, it’s like Tetris.

Each box was punctiliously placed on the shelves of my garage, perfectly utilizing every inch of shelf space, but I still had five boxes, with only one place left, the rafters, which I hadn’t gone through in the six years I’ve lived at this house.

Most of the rafter’s contents consisted of garbage and random things the previous tenants left, but there was one box on its side, towards the back, covered in black tape with black Sharpie reading Fragile B Stuff.

It was my box, I think. I am B….and I am Fragile.

Industrial duct tape wrapped around the box in a way that damn near needed a hacksaw to open. As I sliced away at erroneous layers of tape, I tried to remember the contents. Old football cards? VHS tapes of Jurassic Park and Independence Day? Peruvian shrunken heads? A menagerie of cords to ancient devices? Jumanji? I really couldn’t remember.

I got the box open, and a chill ran up my spine like I had just opened Tutankhamun’s tomb.

It was definitely my box.

Luckily, the me that filled the cardboard chest was kind enough to include a bottle Johnny Walker Black.

I poured a glass, on the rocks with a little lemon and Perrier water, and stared at the contents for a minute, deciding whether I should toss it into my firepit, tape it back up and exile it back to the rafters, or bite the bullet and go through its contents…and hopefully not eat a bullet later.

I poured another drink, on the rocks with a little lemon and Perrier water, and pulled out the first item: a spiral notebook with the cover image of a cat hanging from a rope and the words Hang In There. 

Flipping through the pages made me sick to my stomach. It was filled with scribbles and sketches, incoherent ramblings in between hypergraphic pages, a myriad of negative words and sayings telling me to do horrible things to myself. Kill yourself, die, you’re worthless, you burden, what are you waiting for.  

It looked like a prop from a Japanese horror movie.

I felt like I was just cursed.

Cursed by my self.

Cursed by my past.

Cursed by dormant levels of self hatred that I should’ve destroyed years ago but intentionally left for my future self to find on a sad night like this, to finally push me over the edge…one last plunge into the abyss.

I left myself a cardboard chest filled with blueprints for suicide and treasure maps with X’s at the bottom of tall buildings and bridges, or on the pilots of trains.

I threw the notebook back into the box, on top of the dozens of other notepads, notebooks and stray papers, and took it to my currently quarantined room to be examined on another night.

Pour another drink,

on the rocks with a little lemon and Perrier water,

then repeat,

until I’m too drunk to read.




I’m sad and lonely, but I’ll be alright…I have my Johnny Walker.

Every dark age births a renaissance, I tell myself. When my mood swings back to the brighter side I’ll go through my cardboard chest and write some posts about them…The Lost Books or something like that.

Lastly, I hate the title of this post, but I’m too drunk to think of anything better. It makes sense in my head, but it sounds strange when I say it–maybe someone else will have a better one.

 

Johnny’s First Love

Shortly after graduating high school, I fell in love for the first time with a girl I met at a party. We had both attended the same school, and actually, unbeknownst to me, met each other multiple times via mutual friends, but I was already an oblivious drunk who fixated on all the wrong girls and paid no attention to the sweet, nerdy types.

I was out getting into trouble with my boys when I received a message from an unknown number: It’s JB and “so and so” thinks you’re cute and wants to hang out. Come to this party tonight. 

At the time, my friends and I were graffiti artists. We had planned on busting a fat burner on this virgin wall overlooking the freeway later that night, but decided to hit the party first. It was being thrown at a huge house in a wealthy neighborhood deep in the east hills that was sure to have the cops called before midnight, so we had a few hours to catch a buzz, sober up, then paint the town.

We pulled up around ten, and it was already raging, and I was already annoyed. The party contained every high school archetype I hated–mostly the popular types who spent more time taking pictures of themselves and talking about how much fun they were having than actually having fun–but there were a few pockets of friendlies.

There was also a group of gangbangers who were obviously only there to slang; one of which I kind of knew and ambiguously nodded at me on our way in.

My friends and I weren’t squares, but we spent most of our time with each other, four or five of us doing art in parks, and the houses of other graff artists and scenesters–these types of parties weren’t our thing.

We brought our own handle of Sailor Jerry’s–a 92 proof spiced Navy rum–and passed it around amongst ourselves, quickly catching a silly buzz. JB, the friend that originally texted me, came up and said, “Fucking weirdos, what are you doing in the corner. Go out and dance and mingle.” She was technically a party girl, but she was also a geek. A geek I had a crush on until I found out her brother was a Crip, something you would never have guessed based off her innocence and general dorkiness.

“Johnny,” JB said, pulling me aside. “So and so is not having a very good night. Go talk to her.” (for the sake of not driving myself insane with so and so(s), I’ll refer to the girl as Bill, a name I would later affectionally call her, but that’s for another story)

Bill was sitting on the peripheries of the party, drinking a bottle of water, annoyed and alone. She was a petite Vietnamese girl with porcelain skin, wearing a midnight purple dress and classic adidas. Her style and physical beauty accented nicely with her annoyed grimace, instantly infatuating me. She was perfect.

As I walked over to my future lover, I heard a friend scream, “J! Get over here. Fuck. Fuck. Come one, we have to go,” in rapid succession.

I ran out of the party, following my friend, confused and anxious, expecting the worst.

My friend Mad1 was on the ground, blood gushing down his cheek from a gash over his left eye, onto his white shirt with a fresh aerosol tag stating: fuck tops.

“Fucking Funks jumped him,” my friend Abel1 exclaimed. “I already called the Tops.

Unfortunately, over the years, San Jose’s graffiti scene had turned ultra violent. Many of the city’s top graffiti crews had cliqued up with gangbangers–primarily because they had a steady stream of drugs that artists like to take–resulting in jumpings and drive-bys and other senseless violence on kids that just wanted to do art and catch some fame.

The Funk, as they were called, was one of the first graffiti crews to meld with gangbangers–in their case, Norteños. Every tag, sticker, piece or burner they did was stamped with X4, representing the number 14, pledging allegiance to Nuestra Familia. Most graff crews didn’t even consider The Funk to be artists anymore. The older cats, those outside of high school, moved on to selling drugs, mostly, and left the graffiti to school kids they recruited to put in work.

My friends and I weren’t gangbangers–we were artists–but the graff scene had warped and morphed into something we called spraybanging, where knowing somebody who knows somebody from the wrong crew was good enough to get you mollywhopped–slang for fucked up–and we knew exactly those somebodies.

The Tops, the crew Abel1 called, and would later join, hadn’t fully morphed into a gang, but they were on their way. One of the older cats had recently got out of prison, infecting the entire crew. He was a thirty something with a house on the south side, left to him after his mother died, along with a substantial amount of cash that allowed him to throw huge parties, inviting everybody, including my friends and I, and kids who were still in high school. He fed teenagers booze and coke and pills, then told them to go out and throw up the crew.

Abel1 received a text from one of the head Tops. A meeting was set at a park downtown, near a neighborhood where some of the core Funks stayed, and we had to go…after dropping my injured friend at the emergency room.

“We should stay with Mad1…at least one of us,” I told Abel1 who seemed to be eager to funk. “Actually, why should any of us go? It’s not our fight.”

“Fuck that,” Abel1 said. “You’re going to let your boy get jumped? Let him get sprayed on? Na, we’re going handle business. We all go. You want Tops to think you’re a bitch? To think you just let your boys get smashed on? You know what will happen if we don’t go.”

I lived in what would be considered a Tops neighborhood, So did two of my boys.

We partied with Tops.

We did drugs with Tops. 

If you’re not with us, you’re against us they would think.

“Fuck it,” I said–a ubiquitous phrase in every sad scene of my life.

Pulling into the park, I saw twenty or so Tops, some of which I knew. The ones I didn’t know chastised us for running late, despite it being due to us dropping our friend off at the hospital. “You should’ve brought him too,” one of the unfamiliars exclaimed.

Coke was passed around, followed by baseball bats, and a plan was made, while I tried to figure a way out for my friends and I.

“I know for a fact that Blast(one of the Funks) stays at that house over there. We fuck-up the car on the drive-way, and wait for him to come out. I know a few other those pinche putos live around here too.” another tattooed unfamiliar said.

Shit was getting real, but it felt like a bad dream.

“Fuck it,” I whispered to myself with false confidence.

We all started walking towards the target house, two dozen strong, with the biggest guys in front.

The first ferocious slam into the rear window of the car was accompanied by police sirens, dispersing our group like bugs freshly exposed from an overturned rock.

My friends and I ran down an alley..hopped a fence to the next street..hopped another and another, expertly traversing the city we habitually ran amok on until we were far enough away to faintly hear the sirens.

“Look, La Vic’s!” Abel1 whispered, pointing towards our go-to taqueria. “We’ll chill in there, get some tacos and wait for shit to settle down.”

La Vic’s was perpetually swamped due to their famous orange sauce and close proximity to clubs and bars. It was easy to get lost in the sea of drunks in food comas having obnoxious back ‘n’ forths.

“That was insane!” Abel1 said excitedly to me and my other two friends, who I just realized hadn’t said one thing since we left the party hours ago.

“No, that was stupid! What the fuck, man! We could’ve gotten killed or arrested! I’m not a gangbanger! We’re not gangbangers!” I screamed with the pent up fury I nearly unleashed upon some dude’s car or head or kneecap. “I’m out of here.” I said and walked away–with my other two friends following shortly thereafter.

Downtown looked the same, of course, despite what we just went through. Just another night. You could look in both directions and see some type of fuckery occurring–cops tackling down a drunk who accidentally threatened them after getting rowdy in a club over some dude innocuously bumping into his girl, or a dealer from Oakland being pat down and thrown in the back of a cop car, just to be replaced my another kid who’s sent down to slang to rich college kids.

“What a mess. Let’s go home,” I told my two boys.

The three of us walked silently to the light rail station. I bought a ticket for the first time ever after 6 or 7 years of illegally riding it, and running from the transit police when necessary, showing, to me, I think, that maybe that night’s events engrained in me a semblance of self-accountability. My friends followed suit.

“Is Mad1 alright? Did you text him?” I asked my boy as we boarded the light rail.

“Yea, his sister just picked him from the emergency room. He’s coo, just a few stitches.”

“Cool.”

We spent half the hour trip home staring outside our respective windows.

“You guys were mad scared,” I suddenly said with a laugh, still staring out the window.

Not a peep. I turned around, and they were asleep. I smiled and went back to looking out the window.

I woke them both up when we hit their stop–mine was a bit further down the line.

“See ya man,” they both said.

“Yea, see ya……Oh, and do me a favor, text me when y’all get home so I know you’re safe, yea?”

“Yea, man. You do the same,”

For the rest of the ride, twenty minutes or so, I messaged back and forth with Mad1.

He said he was alright.

I told him I was sorry about what happened.

He said it wasn’t my fault and that he loved me and missed me–obviously high on pain killers.

I shot him a few lols and hahahas, then told him to get some rest.

My stop finally came, but I still had a two mile walk to my house.

At least it’s a pretty, summer night I thought to myself, gazing up at the stars, quickly pinpointing my favorite constellation: the Little Dipper.

My phone buzzed–a text from one of my friends, Yo J, I’m home. Talk to ya later.

Cool, man. Just about home. I messaged back.

Another came shortly after from my other friend, I’m home, bro. 

Cool, cool. I’m about fifteen away from my house. I messaged back.

Tomorrow…down to have an art sesh at Hellyer Park? he asked.

Fuck yea. I’ll bring the Sangria, you bring the markers.

Closing the message, I remembered the text that started the night. The girl who thought I was cute and wanted to hang out. I felt so bad. I had to text my friend to relay a message to Bill.

I’m so sorry about tonight. Please tell your friend I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t lose the chance to take her out for tacos and a movie. She looked gorgeous in her dress and kicks.

She responded back immediately.

I did look pretty good tonight. I’ll take you up on the date if I get to choose the movie. I heard The Prestige is pretty good.

Wait..who is this? I asked utterly confused.

Sorry, it’s Bill…I had JB text you on my phone to ensure we connected whether or not you came to the party :).

Me: Hahaha…What a smooth move. I wish I would’ve thought of that–though I think it might look a little creepy if I pulled the same thing on you.

Bill: Yea, you’re probably right haha….If you were in my shoes, what would you have done?

Me: If I had your number and wanted to non-creepily text you?

Bill: Yea.

Me: Hello Bill. I’ve been watching you. I like the way you wear your skin.

Bill: Ewwww….hahaha…That’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard.

Me: hahaha…but it works, sometimes.

Bill: Lies! haha.

Me: Yup, but only on girls who read Edgar Allen Poe poems in cemeteries.

Bill: hahaha….you dork.

Me: So, what do you like to do…besides sit alone and annoyed at parties 🙂

Bill: Haha…I’m pretty dorky…probably too dorky for you. I like to read and listen to music and go for drives in the hills. I only went to the party because JB said you were coming 🙂

Me: Too dorky…never…not possible. And sorry about the party.

Bill: What happened? Somebody said your friend was jumped.

Me: Yea, some asshole banged him up, but he’s good now…took him to the hospital, got him stitched up…now he’s home, high on Vicodin…telling everyone how much he loves them haha.

Bill: Oh, I’m sorry. Why was he jumped? Somebody said that you guys were gangbangers.

Me: Hahaha…us? No, we’re graffiti artists that just happened to know the wrong people. People we’re done with….a scene we’re done with.

She didn’t text back for a few minutes–an eternity in text years.

Somebody told her about what happened downtown, I know it. About the people I associated with.

I scared her away.

Stupid fucking drama I never wanted to be a part of.

Stupid fucking people, and their stupid fucking desire to look fucking tough and live dead-end lives, eventually ending up in jail or dead or addicted to meth or coke.

Stupid gangs.

Stupid graffiti.

Stupid me. It was my fault. It was always my fault.

I should’ve stayed with Mad1, and told Abel1 to fuck off. He can live that life. We’ll paint pretty pictures while listening to pretty music in pretty parks. That’s what we were. Not gangbangers.

I wanted to tell her all about my secret nerdy pleasures that I kept hidden from people. I wanted to tell her that I was quiet and sensitive, and hated parties and loud places in general. That I liked to go for walks and skip and giggle about silly things most people wouldn’t get.

I wanted to tell…

Bill: Sorry, I had to use the bathroom. And I laughed when somebody told me you were a gangbanger haha.

Fuck.

Bill: To me, you look like an artist. You look out of place with most of the people I’ve seen you with..the same way I looked at the party. That’s why I like you. I thought you’d come to the party, and we’d sit in the corner and giggle at all the other people.

She really was perfect.

Bill: Am I right?

Me: That’s a good rough sketch

Bill: Well, let’s hang out tonight so I can get the details.

Me: Ohhh nice line :). Meet you at Camera 12 downtown around 7?

Bill: Sounds good to me 🙂

Me: Do you like La Vic’s?

Bill: Of course! Who from San Jose doesn’t?

Me: Cool, it’s a date…but you asked me out.

Bill: Haha. Yea, I guess I did. Lucky for you–you’re the first boy I’ve ever asked on a date……you better put out haha.

 

(End of part one)




This story wound up being much longer than I originally intended, so I’ll be doing a part two sometime next weekend, hopefully.

Johnny is a character I’m fleshing out, and he’s a bit all over the place haha.

As always, critical appraisals are much appreciated. And pardon the grammar and spelling errors–I’ve been writing drunk and editing drunk.

 

 

Lost Sanctuary

In seventh grade, I wrote a report on France. It was the last report I ever did, but that doesn’t matter.

Like every report ever done on France, I wrote about the Notre-Dame de Paris and Eiffel Tower, The French Revolution and Guillotine, Napoleon and his height and the Arc de Triomphe, but during my research into the country of my immigrant ancestors, I stumbled across a hidden amethyst: Le Mont Saint-Michel. I became obsessed, spending hours on my public library’s dial-up computers researching the monument.

Seven of the ten page report wound up being on Le Mont Saint-Michel, resulting in a C- paper and a note in all caps from my teacher stating, WELL WRITTEN, BUT THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A PAPER ON FRANCE, NOT A MONASTERY!

Looking back, I can understand the grade and note, she was conceptually correct, but my young, rebellious mind considered it an affront, so instead of returning the paper the next day, to be added to my student file, I ripped it up, only saving the note, and told my teacher I had lost it, which lowered the grade to a D+.

I just turned thirty, and the note from my teacher is my oldest possession. Whenever I feel awkward or misunderstood, I pull it out from my second oldest possession, a never returned to the library copy of Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, and remind myself how little the appraisal of others matters, and dream about the day I’ll make enough money to travel to my mind’s sanctuary, Le Mont Saint-Michel.

The note means so much to me that it’s often the first thing I look for after a blackout night.

A night like last night.

I woke up this morning to a ravaged room. My closet was emptied, along with my drawers, everything strewn across my floor. Some of the tops of my hangers were broken, still hanging in my closet, indicating a significant amount of force was used in their removal. My lamps were on their sides, one of them flickering, the other one’s bulb was broken. My sheets and comforter were piled up in the corner, leaving my mattress bare. And finally, my bookcase was tipped over.

I didn’t have to search for my note; It was on the top of my bookcase, in an unfathomable amount of pieces, resembling a pile of kosher salt more than a ripped up 6″ x 1″ piece of paper.

The culprit, knowing that I was good at picking up broken pieces and putting them back together, made it impossible this time.

I grabbed a pile of clothes–shirts, pants, boxers and socks–and brought them to my other room, the garage, where I’ll be staying for a while. My room is quarantined off until I’m able to stomach the clean up.

 

Le Mont Saint Michel was an interesting infatuation for a twelve year old. A commune built on a tidal island, creating a natural defense mechanism via tidal dynamics–vulnerable at low, unconquerable at high. I wonder if I subconsciously knew how well the monument would come to symbolize my bipolar mind, or if it was just a serendipitous find that I liked because it looked pretty.

Unfortunately, It no longer matters if it’s low tide or high, because the threat comes from inside.