Archive for February, 2008

Mangos and the destruction of innocence

Posted in Uncategorized on February 29, 2008 by wally426

29-02-2008  New York, New York

Tuesday evening marked the first round of playoffs in our citywide broomball league. For all those who don’t know, broomball is a silly sport which is played on the ice (sans skates) with hockey rules and a little blue ball the size of a grapefruit. It was the one thread in college that kept all the boys together during our four years of madness in the heartland. We would spend hours of free time before our games discussing strategies, strengths and weaknesses. Some would call it sad, but Miami was home to the largest intramural broomball program in the country, over 300 teams were packed into the winter and spring seasons. All games were played with 110% effort. Come to think of it, it might have been the only time all of us put that amount of effort into something at school aside from binge drinking. When I finally found a team in the city, excited wasn’t the word. We ended up winning our game 1-0, and now go on to face ‘Frosty balls’ in the semifinals next week.

Even though the cold was biting yesterday, I took a nice walk through the village and popped into one of my favorite restaurants, Dojo. They are known for their delectable vegan dishes, but most impressive is their platter of cold sesame noodles. My brother introduced me to this Chinese delicacy years ago, and it’s been high on my list of ‘meals to eat before going to the electric chair’ ever since. Dining alone is such an underrated experience. You can quietly eavesdrop on people doing intimate things in a public setting, it’s the ultimate voyeuristic experience if you’re not into being a peeping tom. You notice the subtlest details when you’re not eating with someone else… A drip coming from the pipe above the bar, a crooked picture frame, the yellowish tinge of the once white floor tiles, the waitress against the wall with her arms crossed silently guarding her tables like a warden, the flickering ‘T’ in the exit sign, the awkward silence of the couple sitting beside you. You become hyper sensitive to your own actions as well, even though the only people who will pay attention are those other loners in the room. You can gaze at each other and silently nod with acknowledgement that you’re all part of the same odd crowd. All the while you realize you’re not really alone, but sitting together with other strangers around the restaurant, all connected to that same twisted web of solitude.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was a witch

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2008 by wally426

02-21-2008 New York, NY

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.

~Herman Melville

 With nothing but the setting sun in front of us, Krista, Ryan and I headed up to the wilds of New Haven, Connecticut. Waiting for us there was our cousin, Chris Vesce, a graduating senior at West Point. Even though he holds gargantuan proportions of 6’4 and at least 250 pounds, Chris is one of the gentlest giants I’ve ever known. It’s strange knowing that one day he might be deployed to some godforsaken place, and even worse that he might be put in a situation where he would have to take a life. I suppose that instinct is part of us all though, even the most passive beings. I often wonder what it must be like to be confronted with a situation where someone must die by your hand. What sort of dark hidden places of your soul must be reached in order to carry out that deed? To pull a trigger? To force a blade into soft flesh? To hear someone’s last words? Do you lose part of yourself or do you just gain insight into what kind of animal you can be? When it comes down to it, we are just animals with the ability to reason. I hope my cousin will retain what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature’ after all is said and done.

As we were heading back home, I decided to take a little cat nap in the back seat. I dreamt of rain dripping off palm leaves, the white fangs of a tiger glistening with the blood of a fresh kill, sunlight splashing across the face of a smiling infant, darkness. From that blackness I awoke violently to the sound of screeching tires and shrieks from the front of the van. My heart instantly began pounding. I thought about joining the screams, assured that this could be my last moment on Earth. I braced myself for the impact. A second went by and those shrieks I heard turned into wailing laughter. In their boredom, Krista and Ryan thought it a good idea to play a terrible practical joke on the one slumbering member of the troupe. The laughter continued for the remainder of the trip back home, they couldn’t get enough of the face I’d made when I tried to scream but couldn’t. As silly as the evil prank was, it got me thinking about how others’ lives would be effected if the situation had been real. I guess nothing good can ever be taken for granted.

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Monroe said it right

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2008 by wally426

12-02-2008  New York, NY

History and ocean swells share such positive correlation. Fickle minds bob in the currents, waiting for the next big idea to sweep them with the tides. The millions float along unaware that they are in dark heaving seas of viscous brain fluid, clamboring up walls of spongy tissue, drunk off the sweet nectar that continually seeps from blue veins. They become the lifeblood of media moguls, business executives, and politicians. John and Jane Doe are the symbiotic remoras on the great white underbelly of the leviathan. Do they seek to question why? Of course not. The seas provide an abundance of paper mache fish, complete with page sixes and dear abby newsprint jumbled into a mess of red and black ink. It’s enough to keep them full until the next peak sweeps them along. Where are they headed? To them it doesn’t matter. Fate has been accepted as an untimely demise, it’s easy as settling into a fluffy down comforter on a chilly winter night. They sink below the waves, gradually descending into the depths, hair billowing in between rays of waning blue light, settling on the ocean’s sandy bottom where worms of ignorance will devour every piece of fickle flesh.

Protection is something we once took for granted. That is until we were woken up from our candy cane dreams to reveal a bed sitting between two crumbled towers. Our minds had been conditioned to believe that security was relevant to our wallets, not our physical well being. The green grasses in our neighborhood obscured the deserted sump on the outskirts of town. The few gremlins driving in the streets served a purpose during one year of crisis. They rusted along with the memories of those who’s fears once filled their tanks. How did we seek to redefine our terms of security once the rust was blasted off with the roar of jet engines? We tried to set fire to the sump, not realizing it’s seeds had sewn in our green grass. We continued to turn a blind eye to the dry brown patches in the backyard, hoping it wouldn’t creep around the corner. We were happy to be asleep in our beds, floating in that turquoise sea of absent mindedness, awash in that viscous brain fluid. It’s time to break that mold, and heed a doctrine which was established in our great halls almost two centuries ago. If we do that, perhaps we’ll succeed in drying up the sump once and for all?

The fatal glass of beer

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2008 by wally426

08-02-2008  New York, NY

A few days ago, the lineup for this year’s Bonnaroo festival was announced. This brought back a flood of memories from last summer when Victor and I went down to Manchester, Tennessee for four days of music and unabated inebriation. The setup is on a huge 700 acre farm that has been partitioned into dusty lots. The common folk are free to set up tents within a few of the lots and the VIP concert goers have special sections for their RVs, it’s all quite comical when you first arrive. As soon as one arrives at the festival, it’s no mistaking who the common clientele are. As far as the eye can see, an ocean of dreadlocks and tie-dyed shirts spread out. Waves of patchouli waft through the immense throng. For the musical talent present at Bonnaroo, it’s definitely worth the four days. However, words cannot possibly describe the dirt and grime that had accumulated on our skin after days in the sweltering dust without showers and soap. It was truly an experience!

All the thoughts about Bonnaroo brought back an overwhelming longing for hot summer days. Those thoughts become even more prevalent when old man winter embraces the city in his icy clutches. On days like today, it’s important to remember that in 5 months time, this bitter cold will be a long lost memory. The trees will be flush with green, the old Italian ladies will lounge lazily on the stoops, lines will once again form outside the beer garden as the sun sets over Astoria, cicadas will fill the air with their summertime symphony, the concrete sidewalks will bend and melt in the heat, and cool green aloe will soothe the backs of many a misfortunate beachgoer. There really is nothing like summer in this city, never have I seen a place come alive after the temperatures begin to hover above seventy. Until that time comes, everyone will remain in hibernation, dreaming of ice cream cones and running through open fire hydrants.

Percoccentric malaise

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2008 by wally426

06-02-2008  New York, NY

The onset is gradual as a velvet hand slowly caresses the back of your eyelids. Fuzz creeps along to your extremities, soon fingertips hit the keys like wet mops on a tile floor. Sounds seem faint but accute at the same time, as if you can select what you want to sense. If you were to lay on top of a huge amplifier, the reverberations wouldn’t compare to the impenetrable field of shaking brillo around your body. Words jump across the screen as you attempt to read, trying desperately to evade a shaky gaze. The same characters that elude your eyes seem to flow like waterfalls in your head, however they emit like a leaky faucet from your mouth. Upon standing up or walking, it’s hard to feel your feet hitting the ground, creating feelings of extreme imbalance and slight pangs of nausea. Sounds become muffled and conical in shape, bouncing from wall to wall in a neverending waltz with time and space. I leave the peachy mental state as gradually as I entered it, feeling sharper than before. Words on the screen remain in place. Sounds can no longer be filtered. The shaking brillo shell breaks off in pieces, quivering uncontrollably at my feet, waiting for another victim to latch onto.

Return to Pastel Paradise

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2008 by wally426

30-01-2008  Hollywood, Florida

I woke up this morning to the familiar sound of plastic blinds clacking together in the early morning breeze. The scent of freshly cut grass and orange blossoms crept through the window. For a second I thought I was still dreaming, but reality soon pulled me back in from the temporary daze. The memories and ghosts of Florida had been nagging since I touched down on Saturday. My grandfather’s ghost was the most prevalent, it was everywhere. It was there waiting for me when I got off the plane, I could see his dark olive oil skin contrasting with a bright white shirt so vividly. He was on the couch yesterday afternoon watching TV, lazily drinking his second glass of wine and peaches. This morning his snoring would have been the second sound I heard, instead it was only the clacking of plastic blinds echoing in my head like breaking glass in a cathedral. I imagined what my mother went through her first night alone here. That night there was a huge electrical storm. The phone rang and roused my mother from her sleep, but there was only static on the other end. She spoke to it anyway, just in case. I found myself doing the same at times. As maddening as the deafening silence of his absence is, it’s still been great to have his place to myself the past few days. Whenever that overwhelming pain wells up from inside, it’s always necessary to remember that he wouldn’t have wanted it that way.

Florida really is an enchanting place. Here, life goes on like a hazy dream. People stroll around without a care in the world, little pieces of plastic floating in an ocean of sunshine and palm trees. The pastel blues blend perfectly with the skies, old banyan trees dance with the breeze, their braided vines stretching into a sweltering abyss. At night, my cousins and I used to walk barefoot across the golf course. The dew soaked crab grass would scratch the bottoms of our feet. As we stargazed, the only distractions would be the foxes, snapping turtles, toads and possums foraging for food. Coming down here from the city was always a perfect way to refresh the soul.

Having aunt Margie right across the hall has been great. Of all people, she spent the most time with my grandfather. She wasn’t only his sister, but one of his best friends (despite constantly nagging him most of the time, but what are little sisters for?). We’ve spent the evenings having dinner, talking long into the night about politics, family, economics, relationships and a plethora of other topics. I’ve told this to many people about Hillcrest (their complex), it’s just like living in a college dorm. People are always drifting in and out of each other’s apartments, talking, complaining and flirting the days away. Watching them interact is hysterical, they’re like little teenagers.

The last couple of nights after dinner I engaged in the old tradition of sweating out the meal in the sauna. Much to my surprise, they’ve been incredibly cathartic experiences. Laying there in the steaming hot box, beads of sweat gradually start forming on my brow. I focus on nothing but the heat, letting all negative energy flow out with each breath. The smell of damp cedar is overwhelming, old boards groan as the temperature rises, as if letting out a collective sigh… not this again!! The beads slowly come together, forming rivers of sweat that careen between the cracks. Images of sizzling bacon and wet towels being wrung out float through my mind. After awhile, the heat becomes unbearable and I exit into the cold locker room. A big leap into the swimming pool is always necessary afterwards. The contrast of cool chlorinated water on hot oily skin feels magnificent. On the way back to the apartment low hanging palm trees brush against my shoulders, reminding me briefly of running through the Singaporean jungle. The ghosts of Florida are equally as vibrant. I’ll settle down with them in my head, waiting for the sound of clacking blinds to wake me once again.