My Robot Is Pregnant theme song!

tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

December 20, 2008

share your christmas cheer

It’s getting to be about Christmas time, and all the kids are asking for a seasonal story. I got to thinking about the Christmas tree farm off Route 33 but I never worked there. A bunch of people I know did, and I’m wondering if they could share some memories of what it was like to chop down conifers and strap them to roofs for a few weeks out of the year. Or do you have any other Christmas related work stories? Sean Macdonald and I counted bras at JC Penney’s one year for after-Christmas inventory. That doesn’t count.

I worked one Christmas day at Cumberland Farms. I don’t remember anything special about that. A day at the convenience store feels like a day at the convenience store.

Anybody out there kill geese for Christmas dinners?

December 19, 2008

bun shortage

photo posted from my iPhone

It’s like the 40 oz of the BBQ. Too much for one person but you’ll do it anyway. You never equated hot dogs with decadence but here it is. In American pop culture decadence isn’t about quality of materials, it’s about quantity. I stack this up against a Fabrege egg in a contest of overkill. Just let’s put some bacon between the courses, okay?

December 17, 2008

toy donuts

photo posted from my iPhone

These little donuts were awful good. I wish my girl would come to bed and curl up next to me and I would tell her about how they tasted, how they were so small in my mouth, and then we would start kissing and then I wouldn’t care about donuts anymore.

December 16, 2008

things are happening

photo posted from my iPhone
This is twenty minutes before dusk in between showers as we create a sense of summer afternoon barbequeing. As I look back on my career in junk mail fabrication I get nostalgic for the days I was just starting out, putting staples in the bindings of higher end catalogs. And here I was on set, mopping up puddles with wads of paper towels so you won’t be able to tell it’s been raining.

December 15, 2008

another thing that makes me mad

I ought to talk to my therapist about the phone books that arrived on my steps last week. They are still there, swelling up with the recent rain showers. It is a protest. I refuse to touch them. I get angry every time I see them because the Yellow Pages have insulted me.

Don’t they know I own a computer? Don’t they know I’m part of the digital age and use Google to find phone numbers? It feels like I have been labeled a dunce, like somewhere an enemy is in the bushes laughing at me, me, the guy who still uses the Yellow Pages. Yeah right. Those Yellow Pages, the real Yellow Pages, are gonna sit out there on my stoop until they compost and sprout a cherry tree.

December 14, 2008

you’ll want to know this

If you didn’t know already, this is a bucket loader. Drawn on awesome stationary I got at the flea market last week.

daddy, what’d the 1980’s look like?


it would appear someone’s about to shoot up

Dave Luzious and I went to the dump today. We tossed his old couch onto the cement floor and in the bay next to us random photos were scattered. We crouched down and sifted through. Dave took a prize home with him – a fox in lingerie, probably one of these guys’ lady. Even wearing a teddy you could tell it was mid 80’s. We grabbed up a few photos and had to get out of the way, the bucket loader came swooping through and pushed everything into a mashed up wet pile that was going to the big hole in Altamont they call the landfill.

“It’s crazy,” Dave said. “For 30 seconds you can see into a person’s whole life and then it’s swept away.”

I had grabbed up some letters as well before the heavy equipment ripped through. The most desperate/hopeful kind of letter too – a letter from prison with requests for the one on the outside to talk to parole officers and rehab heads, trying to get shifted out of lock down to a half way house.

December 13, 2008

photo posted from my iPhone
San Francisco is not a Christmas town. Maybe it’s the high number of immigrants from non-Christian countries, maybe it’s the young single renters who don’t want to climb out the window to string lights, and maybe it’s the gay population who doesn’t want to celebrate the God who will damn them to an eternity of burning in the sulphurs of Hell. So it was startling to see Santas all around town this morning. Some conspiracy….on New Years or something.

December 12, 2008

Every night when I get ready for bed there is a zit on my nose and when I squeeze it I start to hallucinate. Tonite after the pus came out I was inside a moose. We were both alive, the moose and I, but someone was shooting at us. These things happen. The dream wears off. Them I’m standing in my underwear in front of the bathroom mirror again.

December 10, 2008

bmx plus time equals money

grabbed this sick shit here

Those old BMX bikes are starting to get expensive. You guys might still have one at the folks place, in a shed or something. Get that thing on eBay before your parents sell it at a yard sale for ten bucks and you lose out on a few grand. Look at that beauty up there. You remember Mushroom grips? California Lites? Bear trap pedals? If you have any old BMX Plus magazines hang on to them! You are getting old enough to want the bike your cool friend had but you couldn’t afford. And it’s gonna cost you to chase down a childhood dream.

sliding scale therapy


Another moment destroyed by trying to capture a picture of it. The moon was huge and as white as the blimp. My therapist says I should live in the moment and not try to record things in my head. Or on film, for that matter.

Why do people freak out about going to therapy? I got to talk about myself for a whole hour! It was fun. Here are some things that I remember:

When we are babies in the womb, everything is cool. Then we get born. That’s traumatic. Like in the Bible, there is the garden of eden, and then they got kicked out. I forget why that makes me screwed up, but it does.

As far as why I always want to break up with a woman after a few months…I start to feel connected and that feeling of connection is a threat to my independence.

The attachment is created by a chemical. Mother’s release that chemical during childbirth so they don’t look at the ugly crying thing that caused them so much pain and drop it in a river immediately (sometimes it happens anyway). That chemical is also released during sex.

I asked if there was a chemical blocker so I wouldn’t have to feel attached. She wrote something down in her notebook.

I don’t like people to ask me questions. That is a threat to my independence as well. I really want to be independent, yet I long for a deep connection others. I’m conflicted.

People questioning me has, in the past, led to me getting in trouble, so I have learned to not want any questions.

I’m not sure what happens next. I’ll go back in a week or so and ask some more questions.

December 8, 2008

need a ride?


“I will not rest until we have our own stadium on the moon, with amplifiers pointed towards the sky’s infinite expanses, so that we may truly rock the galaxy.” – Craigslist ad (photo of The Flagpoles by Corey Evans!)

Which reminds me when I used to drive CEO’s in a black Crown Vic with barely legal window tint. I rolled up to the biggest brick single family estate in downtown Portsmouth, checked my black tie was straight, flexed my fingers in my driving leathers and scooted to the front door. The trunk gets popped before I leave the car, so I had the bags handled and we were back on the road in about the time it takes a lesser man to check his mirrors. I thought I was good, but this particular ride was gonna teach me a valuable economic lesson.

I’ll give it to you up front. If you want to make big tips, ignore the client. That’s the lesson. These people are paying $150 for a ride to the airport because they don’t want to talk to people like me, or you, or whoever rides SuperShuttle, a bus, or drives a cab. But I was new. I tried to engage him. I tried to listen to his conversation on the phone. He knew – he threw out a question mid conversation – something pointless like “What time is it?”

“8:15, sir.” I shot back, glancing at the green digital clock set into the dash on those late 90’s models. That was my mistake. Just a set up, the client wanted to know if he could talk freely or not. Of course I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought I was being helpful. It took a few more months before I stumbled on the secret of ignoring these people.

A man and a woman were in the back this time. Driving back from Logan Airport through that stretch of farmland on 95 just before you hit the New Hampshire border. The guy had to speak to me twice before I was shaken out of my daydream.

“Huh?” I asked, startled.

“Would it be possible to stop for cigarettes somewhere?” He asked me.

“Of course sir.” When I finally dropped the couple off at their home, the man laid a fifty on me and said, “You’re a good driver.” I don’t think it’s because I indulged his addiction with a stop at Cumberland Farms. It was because I wasn’t driving with one eye in the rear view trying to look at his wife and didn’t have one ear cocked to their conversation. I was off in space playing intergalactic bass.

Of course there is always an exception. That’s what makes life so difficult. Take for example the older refined gay gentleman that I dropped off at his home by the beach in Rye. As we neared his residence, he began moving around in the back seat. It did catch my eye, this wasn’t the gathering of a briefcase and papers. He had rolled up one pant leg and was adjusting the garter for his thin silk socks. I’ll never forget the lurid look in his eyes that met mine there in the rear view. Had I been in the business, I could have made quite a tip that afternoon.

As the economy falters and my good friends find themselves looking for jobs they may not have previously considered, I put it out there. Rich people will continue to need rides to the airport. If you can put together the cash for a black suit and tie you might have a job. I hope it won’t take you as long as it took me to learn when to look, and when to look away.

December 7, 2008

take me to that specials place

photo posted from my iPhone

I’m thinking about setting up at the flea market. It’s $45 bucks for a spot at Alemany in San Francisco. I’ve brushed elbows with a few full timers in that trade and it takes a strong stomach. The gates open to the public at 7 am and you need to be set up and ready for the sharks, the self employed wild bucks who support God knows what with this lifestyle – what kind of drugs would you be on to show up at 6:30 am Sunday morning to stand in line so you could be the first to sift through a dead person’s possessions?

You know they are specialists by how they hold something. Like an ass-man they flip everything over and look at the back first – is the teapot marked? Are the bronze bookends stamped? Is the painting in it’s original frame? Is the vase signed?

They flip everything, but not like homebuyers. They buy with a target in mind. They will hold onto a piece and wait for the big Deco sale in New York, or the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena. Annual events that bring in high end buyers who drop big bucks on rare items. These early morning hustlers are competing with pickers who buy to resell immediately to other dealers who don’t get up so early, or may be across the bridge at Alameda, the once a month flea market on the old Navy base.

People are cranky at that hour, and it’s still dark and they have two thousand bucks cash in their pocket and they’re scared. Scared they’ll miss a deal or make a mistake. It feels desperate out there, pushing and shoving, cursing, stealing. Anyone who knows anything keeps their mouth shut. Don’t tell the seller what he might have, don’t show excitement about a piece or another buyer will appear out of no where to drive up the cost. It’s like the floor of Wall Street, people want to make fast deals and get to the next stall and have a look. There is no one in that crowd saying, “My grandmother used to have one of those.” That kind of mentality will get you pushed to the ground and stepped over. These people are brutal as arms dealers in a war zone.

About ten years ago I opened a junk shop back in New Hampshire. I got used up by these people. People who make their living driving around looking for something they can buy low and sell high are people who are at all times somewhat insecure. What if they come back empty handed? All that fuel and time wasted…no fresh meat. Most likely there is a garage or a barn loaded with stuff, but they need something new. If shoppers were content to see the same thing in the same place day after day, grocery stores wouldn’t run specials or switch out the end caps. Shampoo wouldn’t be in aisle 6 one day and aisle 12 the next. Sellers know that to shake money out of our pockets, we need to be shaken up ourselves.

I got to spot these sharks by how methodical they were, and how they could spin a story about there hobby and how good my shop looked, Jon, and I have a lot of nice stuff, Jon, and if they bought a bunch of stuff usually they got a better price, right Jon? All the while they are looking not at me – definitely not in my eyes. They are on their hands and knees going through some dusty box they spied behind the counter and asked me to pull out. They said my name hundreds of times because I was a little baby they were lulling to sleep and they would soon have stolen the candy right out of my hands.

By the second or third time they came through I got wise and raised prices. And they got mad. Now it was high pressure sales, with me the salesman being bullied into a corner. I didn’t know what I had and they did. But I had it and they wanted it. Things got nasty. I was hungry but didn’t like being taken advantage of. None of my local customers wanted this stuff, so I needed these guys to spend some dough with me. Their bullying worked. They dictated the prices.

After nearly two years in the junk business I gave it up and moved west to chase the cowboy dreams. Those are behind me too, and now I’m ready to get into the flea market. Get to know some of these characters, the buyers and sellers. From a distance, not relying on them for my rent. There is a lot of freedom in that lifestyle, and freedom tends to burn people out. A loosely regulated cash economy of hustlers. I’m ready to jump back in.

December 5, 2008

when you reach for the stars, you’re gonna come down empty handed – jared del deo


Treasure found at a yard sale in Angel’s Camp included a 1912 fishing license and a block of handmade matches. (That’s the blob thing on the bottom. A chunk of wood was whittled into sticks and dipped in sulphur. You break off a match as you need it.)

Pay dirt is a funny term. Refers to striking gold. We all knew that, but we forget it. Then we head to Angel’s Camp, California – gold rush country – with our father. HE CAME ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITH A PLASTIC GOLD PAN. I didn’t mean to use all caps, but since it happened, I’m gonna let it ride. Because it is that dramatic. He came from New Hampshire with a back pack and a gold pan. It’s green and shaped like a small wok with some grooves stepped into one little pizza slice size part of it. That traps the gold flakes.

As I look at him and think, “How am I like my father? I’m not Republican. I’m not Christian. I’m not into marriage. I’m not into a safe 9 to 5 job,” I realize he is the reason I have all these romantic get rich schemes. He couldn’t even admit to me until this morning as we got in the rental car for the three hour drive from San Francisco that he wanted to stop and pan for gold.

“Where?” I asked.

“It’s legal on any federal land.”

He didn’t have any place in mind. Just wanted to stop the car and pan for gold alongside the highway. As if men were too busy building a road to notice nuggets glinting in the river seven feet away.

We reached Angel’s Camp, it’s a winding two lane through Live Oaks and hills. It was nothing but open land until the edge of town. (Population 3,100) There someone had set up sun-faded two foot plastic Mary and Joseph kneeling over plastic baby Jesus on a card table at the end of the gravel driveway.

Sometimes I think the Catholic Church goes a little overboard spending all the poor’s alms on stained glass and Gothic arches, but having witnessed that barbaric tribute in brittle plastic, I can finally understand. Jesus was trying to comfort the hopeless. That table with its crooked folding legs and Chinese made molded Jews perched on top almost made me lose faith in mankind.

Dad pulled into the Visitor’s Center, directly across from the Lode Hotel. “Better bring your own sheets,” he quipped. We went inside and looked through the tri-fold pamphlets lined up in a wooden tiered rack along one wall. There was a potter and vintner and some other hokey lost souls who tried through a half witted implementation of desk top publishing to lure us into spending time and money at their retreat from reality up here in the spent and hollow hills of former Gold Country.

“Any hoss-back riding?” The old man asked. That New Hampshire accent was coming through loud and clear. He spoke slowly in broken Spanish to every brown skinned person in The City, including the Pakistani at the corner store. Out here in the woods he was back at ease and made little jokes through his mustache and dreamed about gold.

Ostensibly the point of this trip was to find a place for he and my mother to come this summer. She wants to go horseback riding, he wants to go metal detecting. Then he showed me the gold pan. This three hour drive through windmill country to peruse brochures could have been done from the internet back in New Hampshire. It’s actually connected to the same internet that’s in Angel’s Camp. But his lopsided brain that leans heavily on the side of fantastical has us in a 2008 Pontiac with an Enterprise sticker halfway to Reno. Take a look.

See that man there looking for Gold? That is why I am in California today. It’s why I climb into dumpsters and haul garbage. I am the son of a dreamer. He has a wife and two kids, so his dream has been deferred, and here he is sixty one and out of breath trying to get on his hands and knees to dip his pan in the river, and moments before his diabetes swollen feet almost teetered him into the water, and moments later he will need my help getting to his feet, and he will stand there staring into a pile of sand and fish out an acorn and some pebbles and he will keep looking into the sand, and swirl the pan, and look again, and the childhood dream is coming true right here but the only gold in sight are the Golden Arches of McDonalds just up the banking and on the other side of the street.

“The dream is the biggest part,” he tells me later in the car. Every summer I go back to New Hampshire the biggest highlight is wading in the low tide muck of a brackish Piscataqua river digging around for old pottery shards dating back from the time when Portsmouth citizens as a whole threw their garbage in the water. I’m not a gold panner, but I understand him. I’m in Nature, with friends, and might possibly become fabulously wealthy.

I recognize how lucky I am to have parents that care about me, and I’m honored my pops came all this way to check up on me (and pan for gold). When he told me yesterday in the Pupuseria down in the Mission District that he was worried I was lost, I understood his concern. That’s the curse of a dreamer. I am lost and far from home, but I don’t stop looking. I don’t stop believing that if I buy a crude instrument and go off into the hills, I will find what I’m looking for. And the dream is the biggest part, so when I come up empty handed, I know how lucky I am to never stop believing anyway. And he and Mom believe in me too. Thanks.

December 4, 2008

holy flea market crap-man!

Pops flew into Oakland today, so I left early to catch some shopping at my favorite flea market – Coliseum. Open seven days a week. No questions asked. 50 cent entrance fee.

This masterpiece that foreshadowed the current economic crisis was going for five bucks. A smoking hobo clown reading the Wall Street Journal? Yes I bought it!

Then I bought a box of old six pack holders for defunct sodas. Nowadays only beer comes in glass bottles and cardstock carriers. There are some gems but I thought I’d scan in the Tab ones, they remind me of my aunt.

Dad bought a german coin. He said he could double his money. He spent fifty cents on it, so he’ll break even after the cost of admission. It’s like there’s no way to make a buck lately. He blames the unions for the downfall of our economy. It should prove to be an interesting visit, as he explains that one to me.

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