This guy over in Oakland likes to put wheels on everything he owns. This wrecking ball, his coffee table, the living room chair…the list goes on. It’s understandable. Wheels make life easier.
June 30, 2008
June 29, 2008
You are all invited to Tosca’s in North Beach, San Francisco this afternooon for a benefit fundraiser/drinkathon for Paul, whose winning battle with cancer we’ve been reading about.
The pizza guy showed up and Paul’s wife Pinky joined us.
“How much is attitude a factor?” I asked.
“A lot,” Pinky says. “The chemo is kinda like a hair salon – there’s a whole bunch of chairs in one room…they sit you in your chair and you sit there for a while, and Paul would get everybody talking.”
“I did do that.”
“The nurses would fight over you.”
“They did do that too…”
“One nurse would even steal him.”
“One would hook me up and when their back was turned she’d ask me, ‘Do you want a private room?’”
“Do you need a bed?” Pinky added.
“So how does chemo work?” I asked.
“You get hooked up to an IV and they give you bags of chemo,” Pinky said.
“Bags of poison,” Paul said.
“He had three different kinds.”
“What were they?”
“Cisplaten, which is a platinum based heavy metal. Etopicide was one, what was the other?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Bleomycin. And then you’d have, because it makes you nauseous, they’d mix a whole bunch of other drugs to counter-act the immediate effects of the poison.”
“So you sit there for five or six hours?”
“Or more. They can administer it at different speeds depending how well you can deal with it.”
“Do you watch tv?”
“You can, but chemo affects your brain. Your attention span.”
“He wouldn’t even read magazines. People brought him lots of books but he didn’t read them.”
“It affects so many different things about your body. Not only does it affect your hair but it affects your taste buds, what you want to eat, your attention span, your memory. I’m just starting to get a grasp on my memory now actually. I finished chemo December. I started reading again probably April, May.”
Pinky says, “The hair salon thing, an infusion center where they give you chemo, i think they call it infusion to give it a softer-warmer-fuzzy image. All the nurses there were super cool. There were some people in there that were so angry that they had cancer they were giving attitude to the people trying to give them chemo.”
“Can you set the scene for me?”
“It looked a lot like a hair salon. There’s a reception desk, then you go in through a set of double doors and there are these large expensive-looking lazy-boy-type chairs, between four and seven to a room, theres a little waiting room where there’s coffee and magazines.”
“Chicken broth if you want it. It’s time for your appointment, someone comes along and finds your receipt. It kinda seemed like nurses were juggling, they come find you, I would sit down in a hot seat – there’s a lot of cancer out there, a lot of patients – so you sit there, people stare at each other, people pretend to read so they don’t have to stare at each other, or sleep a lot. Its impossible to emphasize how debilitating the treatment is. Some people have it for years and go in for a few hours once a week or a month, get a hot shot and leave. My deal I think was better, it was insanely intense but in three months it was over.”
“Any art on the walls?”
“Two kinds of art on the walls. What I would call inspirational art, you know – pictures, photographs of dramatic scenery and uhh… misty wave-lapped coves and like… umm… poems and etcetera.”
“That was inspired art, art created by people with cancer. That seemed to be a lot more human, naturally. Maybe people turn to what ever they can do, whatever they know.”
“I think it was the process of expressing themselves in their stick figure drawings.”
“It’s made by people that survive, so they want to celebrate. Give them some semblance of hope. A lot of them seemed to be women, too, who seem to have a harder time dealing with losing their hair, or a breast, which is more obvious than losing a nut. Not any worse but…”
“But more visual.”
“Some of it was kind of gloomy actually…”
June 28, 2008
You can’t polish a turd, yet they sell turd polish. Think about that. I think it means people are ever hopeful. American’s are full of hope. You can tell by all the self-storage places around you. The ones with metal roll up doors you throw a ten dollar lock on. Row after row of garage doors inside a gated area. I think we all have a seven by five square foot corrugated steel box filled with hope. Hope and dreams. Roll up a door and find broken chairs you dream of repairing, boxes of books you hope to read. A perfectly good window for the camp you hope to build on a lake somewhere. Under that blanket is a motorcycle you dream of fixing up. You call it “restoring”. But the carbs you took off to clean are in another state you used to live in. Was it Arizona? You can’t remember it’s been so long.
“I’m gonna restore that old Honda someday,” you tell your buddy from work as you two unload a 60 gallon fish tank into the storage locker. (something you couldn’t pass up at a yard sale but your wife doesn’t want in the living room.) You shuffle around the chair from your grandmother’s house, the one that needs the leg glued back on, so you can get the tank inside. Your buddy from work wishes he had a bike to work on. “I’m hoping to find an 1100 pretty cheap,” he says. “I’m saving this stuff for after the divorce,” you tell him.
All these dreams. It’s not sad. It’s hopeful. I’m the most hopeful guy around. I got it from my dad’s side of the family. Just the other day we talked on the phone.
“Your mother and I drove up to Maine to a flea market. Some old timer was selling coins for a nickel apiece! The guy in front of me bought three sheets of ‘em. But I did all right myself.”
“What were they?”
“I got a 1909 wheat penny…”
“What’s that worth?”
“It was the first year they made them, the first U.S. coin to have a president’s portrait on it, the first year “In God We Trust” was on a coin, the…”
“Yeah, but what’s it worth?”
“I could probably get three or four bucks for it.”
The profit is 60 times the investment, but the payout is $2.95. The man has a losing hobby. With gas over 4 bucks a gallon he probably spent 20 dollars driving up the coast. The entrance to a flea market is never less than fifty cents, even in a remote outpost of furtrappers like Arundel. He probably refused to buy my mother a cup of coffee. Figured he made two bucks on that deal. My father has a problem. He dresses it up as a hobby that he makes some money at. But that’s because he ignores all the money and time he loses. The time especially.
Let’s pretend that penny fell from heaven down into his den where his other stacks of coins are. He didn’t have to drive north on 95 until it turned into a dirt road to retrieve it. It just appeared. Maybe Fritz the cat barfed it up. Who knows. The time it will take him to get the picture and description of this heavily circulated 1909-P up on eBay, answer dumb questions about its condition, then stuff it in an envelope and get down to the post office when it sells for three dollars, probably comes out to two hours. Two hours of work. For $2.95 But in his weakened state of retirement, he views this as a viable income.
I give you all this back-story so you understand why I am the way I am. I’m a turd polisher myself. A junk collector. My father has trained in on coins, focused his problem on a hobby known as exonumia. He is a numismatist. He has it easy. This is a partial list of what I collect:
wall mount pencil sharpeners
board game spinners
small blocks of wood with string wound around them and a fishing hook at the end of said string. (These primitive fishing lines are found in a drawer in the garage of most estate sales)
used scratch tickets (I got that from my dad actually)
old whisk brooms (meaning no handles)
work related name badges
weathered redwood fencing
chrome side view mirrors
plastic cigarette lighters (I don’t smoke)
The list goes on much further but I’m starting to feel weird. You probably get the point. I store these collections in boxes in my garage. “I’m letting them build value,” I tell the wall, because I don’t let people in the garage so I have to talk to myself. “When I retire I’ll sell them online.”
I live in what is known as a “soft bottom” home here in San Francisco. It sounds homo-erotic to the untrained ear, but it really means the ground floor is all garage. Quite a common way to build in the 1940′s. It is also the least likely type of home to survive an earthquake. My retirement is possibly large enough to prevent the two other stories above it from collapsing, but I doubt it. A more likely scenario is the pornos get knocked over and burn quickly in the fires that always happen right after the earth cracks open.
People make a living going around bolting these old soft bottoms to the foundation they sit on, but my landlord doesn’t collect enough rent from me to afford that. I would rather have it that way anyway. Perhaps the house will shake off the foundation and leave my collection neatly stacked behind it. It sounds like turd polish, but I’m gonna give it a try. I’d like to talk to you more about my problem, but it is getting late and I’m going to the flea market tomorrow. You have to be there early to get the good stuff.
I’m not sure what’s wrong with New Zealand. It took a second look at this to realize it was corn in the poo that popped from the heat.
June 27, 2008
I was in the kitchen standing in front of an open cupboard wondering why I couldn’t gang rape a sentence. Besides the statistical/grammatical problem of being a one man gang and the fact a sentence doesn’t have an orifice, I was further disappointed in myself for two reasons: 1, why did I frame the question like that? Gang rape? Obviously I have been visiting fetish sites habitually and it is affecting me. 2, why was I in the kitchen looking in the cupboard that contains cans of refried beans and chick peas that I have never seriously considered eating since the day I brought them home, (around the time of Janet Jackson’s semi-nude appearance at the Superbowl), when I should be in the other room writing?
Standing in the kitchen in front of the open refrigerator or an open cupboard is a sure sign I’m trying to write, but with that kind of effort I’ll leave a legacy of shopping lists. Sometimes I am so devoid of ideas I open my roommates cupboards and stare at their food. Remember, I don’t cook. I hardly eat. I just go out to the kitchen and wish I had a wife who loved to cook. Sometimes I think I’ll find her in the cupboard, the wife I wish I had, just waiting to hand me a little plate with the delicate rose pattern around the edges and she has a bacon and egg sandwich cooked and cut in two triangles.
“Oh, thanks sweetie!” I say as I take the plate, shut the cupboard door and return to the computer. I guess that’s why I don’t have a wife.
It’s a terrible vicious circle. I don’t have a wife so I hardly eat and hardly write but spend an incredible amount of time tracking down websites that have the longest free porn clips. I’ve come across a few that give you up to 8 minutes of video for nothing! You get what you pay for so I imagine my computer is infected with interesting Russian malware. I could be helping decode pin numbers and rerouting wire transfers as we speak. Someone has to pay those actors. Actresses. Those leather harnesses aren’t cheap either. So I let them install Trojan horses and I use about four minutes of their eight minute clips.
Anyway, there I was in the kitchen. And really, that’s how the thought came to me, fully formed. “Why can’t I gang rape a sentence?” I meant by that, “Why can’t I write an amazing sentence?” Equating amazing sentences with gang rape really concerned me.
“I need to get right,” I told myself. I think about church. Then I remember I don’t like church. Why am I the way I am? I sit down and think about my whole life up to now. For a few years in grade school I was in a “gifted” reading program. Ken Paul, Marsha O’Keefe, Matt Murphy and I got to leave the classroom and go to a storage room where the ditto machine and the purple transfers were kept (the height of copying technology at the time, since obsolete).
God, if I could only remember that reading teacher we had. I mean his name. I can remember his presence: a condescending French attitude. He had spent time studying French, he was the French teacher for the 8th grade, but he’d probably learned it in Alberta. Which I don’t think is a very French part of Canada, so you get the idea that his condescension was a bit out of line.
Ahh! Mr. Moreau! I haven’t thought of him in years! I think he sensed my hatred of him. Or the little table we sat at. God it was cramped in there.
He was turning me into a nerd. I think that was the root of my anger towards him. I loved to read, I was reading Tolkien back then, The Chronicles of Narnia, all kinds of fantasy things. Truly escaping into literature. I loved it. But I didn’t want to be taken out of the general population.
You know why? The other gifted kids were smarter than me. I could go toe to toe with them in reading, but I was an imbecile otherwise. I felt myself being rejected by the nerds. I was in over my head and they saw me as a drowning maniac. They wouldn’t come near me or I’d take them down.
Imagine yourself in fourth grade…it’s hard. I’ve never been good at that kind of stuff. I have no idea what I wore, how tall I was, even how old I was. I had only a sense that I didn’t belong in the regular classroom, and I didn’t belong in the storage room/reading annex.
At some point that year I was sent back to regular English class. This was fine, because then I could make the kids laugh. Most likely I was sent back to the throng because I couldn’t sit still. Matt, Marsha and Ken were nerds. Smart kids. To smart kids, nerd isn’t an insult. It means they’re gonna have good jobs and rule the world. They were probably eating healthy, and growing at a normal pace. I was fueled by Toucan Sam’s greatest and Fenway Franks. My mind was constantly disoriented. I was growing an inch a semester. My feet are all hammer-toed to this day because I grew too fast for my sneakers.
So. I got thrown back. “We thought you were something, but we were wrong,” the teachers said.
“You’re too weird for us,” the nerds said. What’s a fourth grader do then? The best I can put it together, it was about that time I started shooting animals with the bb gun. And setting fires. Turning into a junior psychopath. Which ties back into the distance I feel from people today, the use of pornography, the hours spent alone in the house staring at cans of food I’m too depressed to cook and eat alone.
Thank god for blogs.
June 25, 2008
photo posted from my iPhone
It’s so weird to make collages. What do you do with them? Sonja and I made some things together tonite. It was fun. But now what? When I look on flickr I think to myself, “There’s too much art out there. We need to stop making stuff.” But we never grow up, in the sense that we never stop saying, “Look what I made today.” I get so proud of myself, and what’s wrong with that? All’s it took was a little glue and a little paper.
June 24, 2008
That’s what Rus called it. This old creaky robotic arm lookin’ thing that apparently you hook onto the ass end of a tractor. Then get to diggin’. We walked down from his place up top to the little shed that hides the junk pile. That’s where he off loaded. Rus picked a spot on the property to dump all his garbage. When the pile gets high enough to see from the road below he scoops it up in the bucket and dumps it in the old Jimmy and hauls it up to Ox Mountain Landfill.
It was at Rus’ I really came to appreciate vehicles. He’s had a lot of ‘em. That old GMC Jimmy you see in back? Still runs. He don’t drive it much now so he tied the hood up. Stops mice from nesting in the fuel lines and keeps the wind from ripping it off. I used to drive it back in 1994, and it was a wreck then. You couldn’t push the key all the way in and you couldn’t ever take the key all the way out. It had a sweet spot less than the proverbial C hair thick. The bench seat was so wore out the junk mail got tossed in to pad your ass from the exposed springs. One of the dirtiest, dustiest trucks I’ve ever operated. But we were hauling horse manure in it, so it kinda made sense.
The Jimmy was Rus’ whole philosophy sitting right there on six wheels. He didn’t believe in fixing anything but the parts critical to making money. By that I mean would it fire up and come to a stop if you held down the brake long enough? Then let’s go to work.
I’ve never had much interest in working on cars. I just want to drive them fast and drunk. Still, even in sober moments I couldn’t for the life of me understand his shade tree methods. As I say, I didn’t know a lot about mechanics, but I could tell it would’ve been easier to replace the alternator rather than have an extension cord come from a generator in the back over the roof and snake under the hood to power a battery charger which in turn kept the battery juiced up.
“I’m not making any money shopping at the junkyard,” he’d tell me. “I’ll take care of it some rainy day when there’s no work.”
It was August and the rain wasn’t due for three more months. So that’s how it went. We’d drive to some horse corral and while he got the skid-steer from off’n the trailer I’d lift the generator out of the bed and rest it on the roof. Once the manure bin was empty and the Jimmy was riding low with half a ton of horse shit I’d climb back up there and lower the generator into the crap. It was simple. We were making money, not spending it.
That was as philosophical as he got.
June 23, 2008
Here is another snippet from Paul Brown’s recent interview. He’s got a lot of really good stuff to say.
“About two thirds the way through my chemo treatment, I really started to feel the effects of the treatment.. what makes cancer patients so ill and so fucked up is very rarely cancer itself. The way chemo works is, it is a poison. It is in fact a cocktail of poisons. That act by killing cells that grow quickly in your body. Of course that includes cancerous cells but that also includes a lot of cells that your body uses to function every day. Your hair falls out, that’s the most common. Your fingernails can fall out or become soft and brittle or flake. The mucus membrane in my esophagus… it deteriorated and collapsed. So I couldn’t eat or drink. Anything at all. Even cold water burned my insides terribly. That was probably the single most unbearable point for me. Being down on my knees on the floor… being in agony just trying to to acquire sustenance… at that point I had to ask myself a question. Is this worth it?”
June 21, 2008
June 20, 2008
“It’s hard to hunt because you’re always trespassing all the housing developments which are taking over the open fields. Since there are more people and more houses, the game is moving further out.”
This is a page from a cool photo book by Bill Owens called Suburbia. It documents the people who live in a suburb built in California in the early ’70′s. This was my favorite image. I’m gonna ship it to you, Landry, if you want it. Check out Linger’s blog.