Monday, December 29, 2008

Maneuvering Over The Wreckage

My body rests in the soft contours of a plush Oldsmobile seat. I am in the driver’s seat, in front of a clear windshield and a long cream colored hood, a hood so long I can barely see where it ends. In the rear is a long bench seat covered in maroon fabric that resembles velvet, but is not. Behind the back seat is a slightly tinted rear window and the long tail of the car that also curves beyond the horizon of my sight. The front seat is also a singular bench wide enough for three people, but in the car, there is only me and a 10 year old Korean boy who sits close to the passenger window, the right side of his body leaning into the car door. A fabric seat belt clings to him, stretching diagonally from the far end of the passenger door to the shiny buckle on his left side. The front seat is upholstered in the same faux velvet material, but its color is different than the back. Along the edges is an outline in maroon, but in the center, covering the middle of both the backrest and the seat, is a mixture of silver and brown threads that have been knitted together. Both my hands on the thin plastic wheel, slightly above center. We are in a wealthy suburban neighborhood on a very bright day. Although there are no clouds in the sky, the sky is not blue; it’s almost like the sunlight has taken over everything, turning every color into a yellow hue that’s so bright it borders on white. It is the brilliance of a candle flame, so bright it hurts to look at it. The light has colored each house into the shade of bleached sand. Each home in the neighborhood is large and spacious, they are mostly two story homes with wide steps that lead up to an impressive oak door. Each house is set apart from its neighbor by ample space and also slightly away from the street. The land between the street and houses is barren, there are no trees, no flowers, no cars or signs of life. The road that cuts through the neighborhood is wide, large enough for 6 lanes of traffic, but there are no other cars. Along with the black asphalt, all the traffic lines have disappeared beneath a thick layer of trash. Most of the debris is industrial, white plastic tubing, sharp pieces of chrome and aluminum in a thousand different sizes. Bricks add their color to the heavy chunks of cement and balls of wire. There are tires torn to shreds and pieces of paper that float slightly above the litter whenever a breeze picks up. Scattered every couple of feet are huge upright refrigerators made of tarnished metal, the kind used in commercial kitchens and bakeries. They are scattered along the road like orange cones without intent, without any uniformity or clear indication of purpose. As I drive, I swerve through them, sometimes needing to veer to the right to avoid hitting one, then needing to move back quickly to the left to avoid hitting another one that stands in our path. My foot is barely touching the gas pedal and the car crawls over the junk like a tortoise. My eyes are completely fixed on the road and I make every effort to avoid the corners of sharp objects, but I feel anxious, I’m afraid the tires will pop at any moment, I’m afraid we’ll hit a refrigerator. There are dings and dents in their sides, scars from other cars. Some of them have doors that hang by a single bolt. The little boy beside me takes no notice of the wreckage, he stares out the window in a posture of slight boredom and familiarity. This bumpy ride is nothing new to him, he has traveled the obstacle course of his neighborhood many times, staring through the window without any interest in the sights beyond.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Amusement Ride

I am in the bowels of a very long and thin ship, a modern recreation of a Viking ship made from black painted wood, metal and plastic. There is no water below the planks, but rather, hard pebbly land interspersed with blades of new grass, nearly invisible in the shadow of night. The boat is suspended in the air, held at least forty feet from the ground by enormous steel support beams on each side. The beams are buried far in the soil and extend vertically into the night sky, topped by a horizontal metal beam that joins them together. Welded to the center of the middle beam is another long metal pole that reaches from the underside of the air-born ship through the darkness of the bowels, up through the center of the deck and to the exact center the pole.
Within the ship, there are no windows, no portholes. It’s almost completely dark except for the cracks in the plank-wood roof which seep in short rays of yellow moonlight. The ship is a popular amusement park ride, but there are only three riders. Up, down, and up again…we swing from one point to the other with violent force, rocking mechanically between the metal beams, attempting to mimic the rolling of ocean waves, only, we cut through the air seamlessly with the force of Eric the Red.
I’m strapped to my seat by the plastic chest plate that comes with most modern roller coasters. The ship swings up high and fast, going up, then down with brutal force and speed. With each swing, my body registers panic. My stomach lurches as we trace another crescent moon with the pointed tip of the ship, then, nearly vertical, we descend, tracing another half smile. My hands are wrapped around the plastic safety belt and, with the beginning of each ascent, I take a long and deep breath. With the beginning of each descent, I release my breath in an extended exhale through pursed fish-lips.
My sister is sitting in the seat in front of me, just a couple feet away. Her long curly red hair moves with the motion of the ship. She is not anxious about the intense rocking, rather, she is preoccupied with the single piece of long plastic tubing that extends down from the ceiling between us. The tubing is thin and bendable, like the extra-long balloons that clowns turn into poodles at birthday parties, only a little thicker and stronger.
With each swing of the ship, the plastic tubing knocks me slightly on my forehead, in the exact center. My sister stares at the sight with an open mouth. She stares at the tube, watching it land on me with a light thump, over and over with each turn of the ship, neither in worry or sympathy, but dumfounded with disbelief.
Five seats away, on my sister’s right side, is my mother. She is clearly anxious. Her knuckles are white, gripping the plastic safety harness on her chest. Her face is covered in lines of fear and paralysis. Her lips are thin and her head hangs slightly forward, like a woman finally dominated by circumstances. She looks over at me and I can see within her eyes, through the blackness that nearly surrounds us, that she would cut the plastic tubing if she could, releasing me from the endless tapping on my forehead.
But she is strapped, we are all strapped, going up and down, tracing and retracing our path in endless mechanical repetition. As we travel the same route, we are nearly silent. I can only hear the light squeaking of metal beams as they glide past each other and the slight hissing of my breath through pursed lips as I struggle to remain calm. The ship is captain-less, not even a carnie graces the decks. We are alone. Below us, on the pebbly soil, is my father.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Curiosity and Recoil

There is a full grown white stallion beneath a blue sky made pale by a thin layer of smooth clouds. The horse has a mane of thick and long white hair that hangs over the right side of his neck and a tail to match that journeys halfway down his long legs before tapering off into a thin point. All the bristly hair that should be covering the bulk of his body is gone, just a thin layer of grayish peach fuzz coats his meaty torso and accentuates the very small black and red dots that punctuate its pale pink skin. There is no pattern to the dots, but they cover him extensively, from the skin above his hoofs to the underside of his soft belly, there are dots the size of pinpricks left to bleed. Despite his skin, he is a healthy animal, there are no protruding ribs and his footing seems steady on the compacted soil.
There are houses and a busy street not too far away and the sounds of tires on asphalt can be heard in the distance, but there is still a quietness in the landscape and in the surrounding hills and the feeling that no one is around despite the signs of their proximity. There are houses in four directions surrounding the horse, but they are far removed ranch houses that do not impede so much on the raw landscape, on the sense of open exploration that abounds in a world without roofs and walls.
From where the horse stands, there are four wide paths made clear by the blades of a small tractor; each dirt path eventually leads to a house in the distance. There is not a stray patch of clover or a rogue yellow dandelion on the paths. They are well traveled and maintained. But, along the edges, not too far from the horse, there are large patches of young grass. Each blade is only half an inch tall and they are the brightest of greens, the burst of chlorophyll containing the raw life wish of the soil and seeds. It is the first exploding note of a song, loud and clear as bells floating over hillsides. It is the color of birth and crying, the baby in the arms of mother soil.
Also in the intersection between paths, only a couple steps from the horse, is an old woman in a stainless steel wheelchair. She is thick from lethargy and lack of exercise. Her bulk fills up the entire space of the vinyl seat and spills over the tops of the arm rests like dough left far too long to rise. Her feet rest upon the small metal foot rests of the wheelchair and, covering her withered legs, is a heavy black afghan quilt decorated in a grid of small colorful squares. Above, covering her wide trunk from the cool air, is a man’s flannel shirt that is just one size too large. Her hair is bright white and short, cut straight just above her ears like a flapper dancer from the 20s. She is covering her mouth with a thin white paper tissue which she holds on her left hand.
The woman and stallion are engaged in a cycle of retreat and curiosity. The woman’s head is cocked slightly to the left side of her body and her right hand is outstretched to the horse. The horse retreats when she raises her hand to it and when she sees its recoil, she puts her hand back in her lap…then, the horse steps forward in curiosity. As the woman reaches up to touch its nose, the stallion retreats slightly once again. She places her hand in her lap and the horse nudges closer once again.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Underground

The chamber is small, just a roughly cut square, six feet long on each side, just spacious enough for a handful of people. The floor is cut from inner earth and nothing disguises its raw nature. There are no rugs or tiles upon it, it is just cool, compacted earth that has the faint smell of decomposing leaves upon a forest floor. The contoured floor is a very deep brown, almost black and somewhat shiny in spots towards the center and more dusty and matte along the perimeter where the ground becomes the wall without any hard angles. There is nothing smooth about it, it moves like a soft miniature landscape with subtle differences in the height of each corner, between walls there are slight valleys and mountains, each one barely perceptible on first glance. Traces of footprints are visible in the dust around the edges and indentations of hard metal tools mingle among them, disguising their origin. The floor is cool at any given moment, made cold by the depths within the earth, hidden from sunlight and the touch of air and wind and light. The walls of the room are carved from the earth as well and they remain gritty, sloping in spots, protruding in others without any thought of geometry.
The space is almost completely dark, illuminated only by a very small fire that burns in the center of the earthen floor. Little bits of coal and small scrapes of wood crackle and cast elongated shapes onto the walls. The colors on the walls dance in shades of black that quickly jump into the realm of pale orange and then quickly move back towards the dark. In the flickering shadows that lick the walls, a couple of tapestries decorate the creased walls. They are semi-large rectangular pieces of geometric art made of colorful thick wool. In the firelight, it is hard to make out any of the colors, but the shapes do not divulge any mythic images, there are no distinct figures or representations, just hard geometric shapes: triangles, lines, squares, rectangles, circles. The shapes overlap and reach outwards, as if trying to be the one closest to the surface of the tapestry. The result is a fusion of lines that has no definitive subject. The triangles and squares and long lines are in sharp contrast to the imperfect square-ness of the floor and walls of the chamber.
In the center of the chamber, the little fire, barely larger than a dinner plate, is contained. Broken pieces of coal and thin logs burn and crackle, sending their smoke up in a long, thin current that voyages up into a ceiling that is completely black with smoke from previous fires. From the soft edges of the walls, the ceiling tapers up into a blackened peak with a thin hole at the very top which ushers the smoke from the room.
There is a vague shadow in the room, a thin man who moves quietly and softly around the perimeter of the chamber. His footsteps make no noise, his movements cast only the faintest glimmer of shadows upon the walls. His gait resides somewhere between anxious pacing and mindful, controlled movement. He is alert and attentive, aware of everything in the small space and watching it like a quiet guardian, waiting for a threat like an outdoor cat on the boundary of its land.
Beside the fire, standing only inches from its grasping flames is a short brown skinned woman. Her thin ankles and skinny legs lead to a very round stomach which has the shape of a large tree stump, lacking any curve. Hiding her legs is a skirt made from thick black wool that still smells of sheep and has little bits of leaves and small branches the size of toothpicks woven within the cloth. She has wrapped the long material around her lower half like thread around a spool and holding it all up is a large colorful sash that is tied around her stomach, in multiple knots.
In the firelight, the color of her skin is like black coffee mixed with milk. Below her beautifully embroidered neckline, her large breasts protrude from her thick white linen shirt like autonomous mothers ready to feed any and all creatures that would hover at her feet. Her thick, chubby shoulders lead to very thin, delicate wrists and to her hands that are clutching each other in a loose embrace as she stares with a fixed gaze into the small fire.
There are scattered gray ashes along the periphery of the fire, but the porous black coals burn bright in the center of the room. Sitting directly upon the burning wood and coals is a medium sized brass bowl which is about a foot high. Its mouth is wide and small flat indentations from a hammer grace the sides of the vessel. Inside the bowl, is a pile of fine gray ashes that fill it halfway. The woman’s smooth face is relaxed, her mouth is slightly open and curved in a small, almost undetectable smile. Her dark eyes, which are lined at the sides with thick crow’s feet are soft and hazy. Her eyelids are slightly drooping. The woman holds her gaze upon the bowl. The man in the shadows roams the periphery of the dark chamber in perpetual vigilance.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cafeteria

The carpet is cut pile Berber of a hue that calls to mind the rough and dark skins of old growth trees in a shady wood, cacao brown with deep black cracks. Despite its already short fibers, it lays close to the ground. The wear and fray of its tiny olefin hairs is noticeable only to the ant that has found its way from the lush green jungles of the wide world to this synthetic prairie. He tipety claws gingerly upon his six dainty legs, stepping from one cut loop to the next, mandibles at the ready, antennae twitching eagerly as they guide him in his quest. Towering high above him is the flat black acrylic coated bottom of a folding picnic bench. The tops of the table and attached benches are covered with a faux wood veneer. Lined up from one end of the cavernous assembly hall, where a stage hides behind a velveteen goldenrod curtain, to the other where the Berber gives way to the textured laminate of the cafeteria kitchen, the picnic benches wait patiently like headless prehistoric beasts. Children sit upon the benches like birds perched upon the backs of rhinos, swinging their legs while digging into their brown paper bags to retrieve foil wrapped ding dongs.
Just beyond the edge of the Berber forest, twelve feet into the speckled laminate plains, a wall separates the kitchen from the auditorium. A rectangular window with a 20 foot perimeter reveals the faces of stainless steel appliances and the bodies of two plump women wearing paper hair nets, white cotton coats, and aprons. Moving hurriedly about, the women resemble nurses in their sterile bleached uniforms. Their skin in ruddy, their movements swift and mechanical. One removes industrial sized cookie sheets smothered in tatter tots from the opened mouth of the gargantuan oven while the other places poly-carbon trays on the sill of the serving window. The trays have 4 uniquely sized compartments and come in either the subdued aqua hue of toothpaste or in a pastel yellow. One compartment features the meat patty on a bun, another houses the crispy golden tatter tots, a third is home to a one fourth cup serving of slippery fruit cocktail, and yet a fourth compartment awaits the one quart carton of chocolate milk that rests with the less desirable cartons of white milk in a free standing refrigerated corral. This apparatus, near the border that parts cafeteria from assembly room, stands open like a cooler laced with sparkling frost.
A pair of tinted glass doors propped open with little rubber wedge shaped stoppers allows a steady stream of children to flow into the building where they lift a tray from the sill and troop to the cooler and select the chocolate milk before joining the brown baggers. Another matching pair of doors set in the same wall positioned at the opposite end of the building to allow access to the auditorium, stands shut. Outside the rain slaps the asphalt mercilessly, turning it an oily black color. It drums on abandoned aluminum picnic benches. Helpless to defend themselves against the eager droplets of water, the ribbed benches remain still as always, completely resigned to the unjust punishment being bestowed upon them by the pure force of nature. Hugging the wall of the building, the children stand in a long line under the awning. They talk loudly, laugh and jump in place. They pull their arms inside their sweaters to warm their hands and occasionally dart out into the rain to wash their rubber boots in a particularly irresistible puddle before funneling through the open doors into the warmth of the auditorium.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dune Labyrinth

On a bed of short, drying grass, there are three large boulders in a tight cluster, spaced only a couple feet apart. They are all approximately 5 feet tall and round. Each is made of solid, rough stone, the color of deep, warm earth and an undertone of red, like the rich red sand of the Nevada desert. They are almost the same size in mass, but each is unique in shape and details. One is more oblong than squat. It sits like a reddening egg with a pointed peak, fully erect and noble. Another boulder is thicker that the other two, its shape is slightly more condensed and round. Its top is a soft dome, lacking a point. it also sits fully upright, although not as tall as the other. The third is a combination of the other two, it is a little taller than the fatter stone and a little more squat than the egg shaped stone. This stone does not sit fully upright, rather it rests at a slight angle on its side, as though it was reclining against some invisible easy chair.
Their contours are rough and chiseled by the elements. In each, there are pockets and grooves, lines on their hard surfaces. The three boulders are part of the heart of an ancient circular labyrinth which spirals from the center, out, the ends of which cannot be seen. Entrance and exit are a mystery, a myth, known, yet not seen. Surrounding the stones is a small expanse of open space, there are no trees or flowers, just an earth the color of mixed copper and sand and drying grass below the stones.
Twenty feet away from the stones are the innermost walls of the labyrinth. They are at least thirty feet tall and shaped like a continuous line of sand dunes. The dunes are wide and gentle and slope up to their peak at a 45 degree angle. They are made of reddish tan sand and begin on either side of the path and build into tall peaks that are warm beneath the exposed sun. Billows of red sand blow up when the wind passes over the peaks, after drifting with the wind for a while, they scatter and settle back into the great mass of sandy walls. The paths between the dunes is somewhat narrow, three or four feet at the most. The small pass is made of more compact and hard earth, it is solid and a very light tan. There is not a mark of footprints, it is clean despite the mountains of sand that surround it on either side. The sky above is blue, yet there seems to be a golden filter that colors everything in a yellow haze.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Descending Escalators

There are two long escalators side by side. The slates of the revolving stairs are shiny on top and black and gritty in the grooves. They are relics, having once been known as a technological marvel, now, they are well worn and barely maintained. The plastic handrails are scratched and dingy, the once shiny black plastic is now on the verge of being called gray. They are long, a couple hundred feet spans the distance from the sun drenched street to the dark lower level. Both escalators are bringing people down, bringing people from the bright, noisy street into the cool depths of the underground rail system. The tunneled opening to the subway is spacious; the graying ceiling is hundreds of feet above and lends an air of grandiosity; as though the riders are on path to a new, darkened kingdom. Halfway down, I can still feel the bright light from the street above which is saturated in the sound of screeching buses and the smell of overripe fruit. But the sounds of the city pale in strength to the thick silence of the inner earth. There are no sounds that compete for attention here. It is only the continuous mechanical drone of the revolving escalator gears that fills the space with sound. The crowd on the escalators is quiet, each rider stands silent and erect, looking straight ahead, like soldiers at attention, emotionless and still. The ceiling of the tunnel is spotted with the yellowed dim glare of old fluorescent lights. The subdued lighting adds to the quiet. On either side of the conjoined escalators are wide stairs of dark red bricks, made glossy by the countless shoes that have walked upon them. Covering the walls are billboard after billboard, each one colorful and shiny; like windows to another world, they flaunt the latest in technological innovation. My old friend is riding on the escalator to my left. His hair is a cushion of long fluffy curls, like the well-worn wig of a Halloween costume. He is wearing his favorite plastic sunglasses. The lenses are black and adorned in turquoise trim. I call out to him, well above the pitch of the escalator gears. He is only a couple feet from me, but he does not turn around. He is smiling, almost undetectably, with only the smallest corner of his mouth in a slight upturn. I call his name over and over, but he simply stands still, waiting to reach the bottom of the escalator but never fulfilling his goal. As much as I call, he never turns around, the escalator never stops moving, and the crowd never leaves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Inner Jungle

It is a moonless dark night and the streets of the city are empty and covered in a misty sheen. There are no cars or buses casting their beams, no late night lovers on a clandestine stroll. Only a couple of the iron street lamps are working and the air is thick with abandonment and fog. Dozens of old apartment buildings line both sides of the street. They stand like tall soldiers, side by side, sharing conjoined walls and not a bit of breathing room between. Each 3 tiered building is made from bricks, marble and a slightly different hue of cement, although in the dark night, they all have taken on the same grayish color. Each building has a set of marble stairs leading up from the street, the steps are long and narrow and end in the darkened caves of the unlit landings. They are mostly apartment buildings and an occasional office space, occupied by singles and families, but at this hour, there is no living human presence. Only the buildings themselves and the paved streets and the subtle embellishments of the long-dead carpenters that have left their marks over the doorways and around the windows provide any proof of life or creativity. Inside one of these nearly identical buildings is a flight of stairs. They begin in the center of the building, close to the roof and lead down, eventually passing the basement and journeying further into the earth. There are no windows or doors in the center of the building, only the narrow decline of a never ending staircase which contains itself, taking very little space despite its sheer length. Architecturally, the steps are laid in sets of eight, after which follows an even landing of hardwood which is a small square of 3x3 ft, and then another set of eight steps continue, beginning at a 90 degree angle to the left of the landing. Each floor is the same, the same color, the same sight, the same odorless smell. There are no lamps or light bulbs to be seen, but everything is washed in a bright yellow light, like late afternoon light cast through a florescent filter, but its source is hidden. Each individual step of the staircase is made of a medium colored wood. They are well worn, but still somewhat shiny. There is a wooden banister that follows the descending flight of stairs, like a geometric snake that coils in exact increments; it’s supported in spacious intervals by carved vertical beams that connect the stairs to the horizontal banister. There are slight embellishments along the vertical beams, deep grooves that were carved with a steady hand, simple wooden flowers and leaves designed to almost be invisible among the rich grain of the wood, yet it adds a slight hint of elegance to the internal staircase. The top of the banister is smooth and shiny and slightly cold to the touch. Continuously and without the interruption of doors, windows, picture frames or decoration, is the clean eggshell white walls on the right. Despite the measured sophistication and clutter free interior, another life form adds its chaotic breath. Sprouting with abandon, poking out from the walls like weeds and dripping from an invisible source above is a thicket of psychedelic foliage. Their density is a jungle of colored vegetation, only there is no moistness in the air and the space is devoid of bird cries. Thick, dinner platter sized leaves in shades of red, orange and yellow fill the narrow staircase, their lushness leaving only a 2ft x2ft clear tunnel in the center, three feet from the floor and a couple from the walls and banister. Thick vines swoop from above and connect from wall to lower wall, mocking the straight edges of the banister with their sweeping lines and cascading shoots.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Gifts of Clouds

Thunderous rain has begun to spill from deep red clouds. They gather like over-stuffed pillows, releasing their unending desire at a torrential pace. The fairylands of the lower clouds have been decimated, the rainbows that hide during the day have fled for brighter skies in the north. The little people have drowned, the ones that cover themselves in blue markings, like permanent childhood etches upon their pale white flesh. Their floating bodies have added layers of blue texture in the rising waters. Lifeless, but moving, they are one with the element they worship above all others. Towards the outer edges of the world, there are murmurings and questions posed to the clouds that gather and produce each day, then vanish as the light begins to fade. The questions are never revealed to a listening ear, there will never be an audible answer. They do as they wish, answering to none. Even the winds remain silenced by the force of their watery pulses. There are some who sit in treetops, in the upper branches of towering eucalyptuses. The long silvery leaves are fragrant in the elemental mix of water and air.
Naked and pierced, a slender girl holds onto the thickest branch with her strong thighs. Her legs drawn tightly around the smooth limb that seems to return her affection. Her hands are free, they sway, moving without rhythm to the constant tap of raindrops. Her petite head, covered in long tendrils of wet brown hair is turned up to meet the rain with an open mouth. Small beads roll down her pink tongue, leaving miniscule trails of their descent. Small pools have collected in the space of her closed eyes and each new addition sends a quiver from her heart to her toes. Raindrops fall upon her by the hundreds and she feels each one. Each, like a unique kiss sent by one with no mouth.
A kiss lands on her small toe, another on her right breast, another on her cheek. They land en masse, they land as one. Like a sponge for their attention, she keeps herself open to their language. Each ting a small communication, touched by the roaring clouds above. The forest of eucalyptus is massive and dark. There are other girls like her, somewhere within the vast stretch of fragrant forest, but the night is dark and her eyes are closed to all except the tiny spheres of water. With each taste that finds itself in her mouth, she feels a new emotion. Like lightning mixed with sweetness. Like rage filtered through a soft touch, like candy dipped in the excited delight of flesh on flesh. Her thighs, wrapped tightly around the smooth branch shudder with each arriving drop.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Hills

The early morning air is crystal clear. Overhead the sky is stretched smooth, a cloudless robin’s egg blue. Underfoot the earth is a patchwork of dirt and wild grass; in some places it is soft and springy like short green shag carpet, in other places it is long and brittle like tufts of wily yellow hair. Little wild flowers poke up here and there; dainty white blossoms no bigger than a pinky finger nail speckle the green grass, tall gangly sunflowers thrive near the yellow grass and occasionally jut from patches of parched dust. With sunny yellow petals and centers the color of freshly ground coffee, they flaunt their resilience and the freedom it grants them by growing almost anywhere, even among the clusters of slate boulders that build the hillside.
Upon the hills crest, near the chaotic configurations of stones, a ram grazes on the tender blades of green that have managed to thrust up among the rocks. Its hair hangs like a silver drape obscuring its short stout legs. With horns spiraling low and near its head, everything about its physique seems to pull it closer to the earth.
Brief valleys separate this hill from its siblings. The colors of these mammoth mounds leap forth with startling vividness. The clay top soil of one is a deep warm red, almost too ruddy to be believable. Its surface is littered with the charred remains of burnt oaks and chaparral. They stand out like black runes etched upon the red background. It is almost as if they could be read, their shapes and configurations seem wrought with a hidden meaning which seeks to burst forth. The right eyes could divine their secret message.
Similarly, another hill, mostly swathed in the green of grass, is ornamented by winding dirt paths and mounds. At a glance these seem to be Neolithic glyphs, painstakingly carved out upon the hills face. A second look suggest that they are but roads, and yet a third will seem to affirm that they are yet both, as if roads and the signs of common human habitation have been carefully traced directly on top of something older, deeper, and subtler. They form shapes riddled with mythological richness.
The noises of small birds can be heard coming from the underbrush; the rustle of leaves as a limb bows ever so slightly under the small feathered body that has just lighted upon it, an almost insect like trilling punctuated by a chirp. Now and then they can be glimpsed, a blur of movement that leaves an empty branch quivering, or a yellow and black head, slightly cocked so that beady eyes may glisten inquisitively from behind a thicket of waxy green leaves.
Butterflies disturb the stillness of the air with the gentle flittering of paper thin wings. As a population, they are predominately bluebell blue, but occasionally a painted lady passes through, orange wings palpitating through the ethers, looking for all the world like a beating heart floating adrift in an invisible sea. Those of the blue variety congregate sociably upon the clusters of wild flowers. A well trained ear might be able make out the whispering of their wings and glean some significance. Their dance through the sky, their configurations upon the flora may be read like the tea leaves at the bottom of a bone china cup. The context of their message shifts with each dying moment, so that in one breath it is profound and in the next it is vulgar.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Halfway Submerged

I am submerged to my belly in the clear blue water of a tropical sea. The water is warm, ever inviting, yet cool enough to offer refreshment from the humid air. Further out to sea, close to the horizon, the ocean is an angry, tumultuous black. The sun is absent, and the blue sky above is nearly covered in patches of bubbling gray and white clouds which are outlined in a deeper shade of black. The stillness of a tropical storm about to break is all around, pervading every sense and enveloping my skin and being with its presence. The air is still, sticky, sweet…and I stand, half in water, half in air, waiting in stillness as the looming presence of a greater force draws closer.
Below my feet is a watery floor made of countless rocks. Their culmination is a bed of speckled colors that move in an endless kaleidoscopic rearrangement within the continuous churning of eternal waves. There are small rocks mixed with others that are four times their size. At first glance, most are ordinary in shape and color, but on closer scrutiny, I see the variance in their details.
I see coral colored oval shaped rocks with black swirls, large circular stones with streaks of orange running through them. Small white ones with musical notes painted across the surface. There is a large grayish blue stone that has a small rectangular patch colored in the cubist designs of a Picasso painting. I stand, only a little ways from the shore which is made only of yellow sand. There, there are white plastic chairs that nearly cover the beach, some chairs are decorated with the red and yellow motif of the local beer. Tourists move like shadowed ants in the covered cafes that line the beach. They sip cold sodas and warm beer, they snack on chips and fried fish. There are old ladies that sit in the chairs closest to the sea, they rest with thick legs spread wide beneath their long skirts, watching the waves, quite content to sit silently and watch the stirring ocean.
Halfway submerged in water, I stand atop the rocks. The waves pull the stones up from their resting place and push them ferociously past my thighs and legs. After a short break of stillness, after all the stones have settled into their new place, another wave breaks ashore, pulling the stones out to sea again. After a short moment of newfound stillness, a wave pushes another batch of rocks past me towards the sand. I feel the pressure of their form as they brush past, but I feel neither pleasure or pain, just the simple weight of them as they tumble across my skin.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Doll Box

The building is shaped like a pyramid that never quite comes to a point. The walls slope inward and upward closing in on themselves. As high as the eye can see, covering the faces of all four walls, are the dirty plastic and porcelain visages of dolls. Some are just heads, others wear ragged dresses, sailor suits, or overalls to cover their little bodies. Some are missing an eye, from others an arm or a leg is absent, or even the hair which should adorn a head. In some cases the hair has been cut down to reveal the little round pin holes through which silky synthetic hairs once cascaded generously. Now only short outcroppings protrude like thirsty weeds from un-watered earth. They are bathed in shadows from which they peer out at each other timidly.
The smudges of dirt and dust upon their apple shaped cheeks blend inconspicuously with the general gloom. The only light to trouble the inanimate inhabitants of this space comes from a small round window positioned somewhere up high. It is dirt streaked and lets in just a touch of light, enough to make the occupants of the room visible. If the mass of dolls, with their dirtied lace petticoats and moth eaten pink bloomers could be lifted from the walls, only faded gray planks of wood would be revealed with splintered edges by their absence. The floor too is of the same wood planks looking ashen under a film of dust. This film is completely undisturbed, like a blanket of new snow, it is spread snugly over the floorboards.
In one corner, a spider is walking along, leaving behind pin prick arachnid footprints. His body is very round, his legs are not too long compared to other spiders. To the dolls he looks black, especially as positioned over the dust. To another spider he would appear to be more of a dark grayish brown.
He ambles along under an unfinished pine rocking chair. It too is subject to the powdering of dust. Its great curved sled feet rise up from the floor, the tips pointing toward a ceiling invisible in the murk.
There is no apparent doorway leading in or out. Along the wall on one side of the room a dark counter top with a few drawers juts like a fat lip from under the dangling legs of dolls. A few lengths of wire lay out across its surface, gathering ashen particles so that they have come to look fuzzy. They hang over the edge and just reach to the floor. On one corner of the counter sits a glass jar. Several bushy brushes, like those made for applying make up, cross lengths with a more petite variety, like those used for painting some fine detail. Hidden among their stems at the bottom of the jar, one blue eye rests unblinking, perhaps lost from the face of some poor citizen hanging high above.
There is a faded yellow paper laying out, also coated with the velvety dust. Upon it, faint graphite markings are approaching invisibility, now too faded to make anything of their original design out. From the outside the building looks like a chimney stack covered in shingles, all painted a robin’s egg blue. The panes crossing the round window are painted goldenrod, as is the lattice around the superfluous eaves at the building’s crest. A large black crow sits perched on the western lip of the roof, looking silently at the steely blue storm clouds as they drift out into the distance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nuclear Medicine

The elevator doors close unsteadily. Cables squeal and grind with effort. The yellow rectangular light panels buzz feebly overhead. The inhabitants of the elevator glance at each other out of the corners of their eyes. One is male, the other female. The male is lean with sunken eyes and bony cheekbones. He wears slacks of brown polyester held up with a belt under which a black and blue checkered shirt is tucked and buttoned up to the collar. The woman is short but ample and wears her hair closely shorn. She wears slacks and sandals with a white tunic blouse. They stand silently with a healthy distance between them. The carpet underfoot is stained and torn. The woman tries not to let the tips of her toes come off the edge of her sandals lest they come into contact with its contaminated fibers.
The doors shudder open into the gray mustiness of what used to be a bomb shelter. All surfaces are concrete. Doors are the exception. They are dull metal.
There are flickering florescent tubes leading the way from where they are bolted high above, and yellow arrows painted on the concrete point the way from below. The corridor twists and turns. There are no people, just doors marked RADIATION. DO NOT ENTER. With small nervous movements and wide eyes the two individuals shuffle along following the yellow arrows.
A cubicle with a yellow light shining out through the panes of glass houses a solitary human being. He is a fat young man seated behind a desk, his nightly snack of Snickers Bars and two cans of Coke Classic stacked beside his appointment book. He’s a little sweaty, but manages a smile. ..
He directs the woman to continue alone, further down the gray hall with the yellow arrows. There, a tall man in a white coat and blue paper shoe covers awaits and ushers the woman into a very large room with a large white torpedo in the middle. There is nothing else in the room. Absolutely nothing. The tiles on the floor have been buffed until they are almost invisible.
The man is very businesslike as he hands the woman a flimsy cotton hospital gown that opens down the back. She undresses awkwardly. With her back to him, trying not to allow her clothes to fall to the floor she simultaneously attempts to cover herself with the disposable garment. It is creased so that she is swathed in white paper squares. Tersely the man instructs her to put earplugs in as well. A narrow bed slides out of the mouth of the torpedo like a curved tongue. Nothing supports it. It doesn’t appear very sturdy. It’s plastic. The woman crawls onto it but is forced to lie down with her arms over her head. The tunnel is too narrow to let them dangle naturally alongside her torso. The man in the white coat warns his patient to keep her eyes closed and places a heavy, weighted belt over her abdomen. A smaller version is placed over her knees. A still smaller version is placed over her ankles.
She is unable to move. Or see. Or hear.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Restaurant

The air outside the building is heavy with the smell of cooking meat. It is smoky and gray and long wafts of smoke protrude from the chimney sixteen hours a day. The sweet smell of barbecue sauce lingers on the wind. It too, presses down on the air, keeping the wind full of thick charcoal gusts. But the heaviness does not invade the building, it just hovers on the outside, waiting just beyond the closed doors and windows, a tangible promise of what waits within.
Inside, the smell of smoke does not penetrate. The walls, both solid concrete and glass, are thick and insulated. Inside, there is the feel of military order. Everything has its place. The trash cans are bolted securely to the wall, framed pictures of men playing golf decorate the walls above. The tables are lined up in rows that vary just enough to give off a slightly human touch.
This is a tightly controlled environment and only specific smells, sounds, and tastes can exist here. There are two walls adjacent to each other. They are almost entirely made of plexi glass except for the bottom two feet, which are standard wall material but covered in brown tiles. The glass walls are covered in huge pictures of burgers that are 6 ft by 4 ft. One after the other line the glass walls, with a small 4 inch gap separating each poster from the other. Images of juicy hamburgers are printed on all the posters. Double patties with oozing ketchup and mustard. A picture of a creamy Oreo milkshake, bigger than life. The images are stark, there is no hiding the leering attempt at physical seduction…a hamburger, a picture of a cartoon of French fries. BAM.
The floor is composed of smooth brown bricks laid in a lattice/geometric pattern. There is a family of Latin descent. An overweight mother, a slightly overweight father, a boy twelve years old, a little girl wearing a gold paper crown. They sit in silence, at their square table, each facing in, reaching for the French fries in the middle of the table. White circular fans whirl lazily above. Against the wall dividing the two glass side walls are more faded prints of golf courses. There are three, each at exactly the same height and held together by a white wooden picture frame.
Directly across from the solid wall, about 30 feet away, is the central hub. A teenage girl stands behind the register. She is slightly disheveled, long wisps of her thick, dirty hair have fallen from the confines of her blue visor, the same hat which some health advisor devised to prevent hair from mixing with food. She mumbles something unrecognizable into a thin, bendable chrome microphone that is attached to the register. Her command is lost in the dull murmur that vibrates and holds like the thick smoke outside.
There are beeps that go off every minute, different sounds for different meanings. They signal cars approaching, perfectly cooked meat patties, heating times accomplished. A small crew of uniformed workers, all looking like they came from the south pacific, busy themselves behind the wall dividing the registers from the kitchen. One is at the grill, flipping meat patties amid lapping yellow flames. She squints her eyes against the barrage of smoke. Another small man to her right prepares the buns with condiments, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, he piles them on the little buns.
The glow from the heat lamps, directly above the French fryer, emits a beam of yellow light. The sound of a door creaking and closing keeps disrupting the space. The light sound of music is just barely recognizable. A young Samoan woman sings along to the lyrics, she gazes at her 1 year old daughter as she sings. She is curvy, wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt, her long thick hair is piled high atop her head with a rubber band. The baby girl is wearing a gold paper crown, it barely fits on her little head. There are three generations of Samoan woman, each with big slightly slanted eyes and big brown lips and golden skin. They sit at the booth sharing a pile of French fries. Each has a paper cup full of a sugary liquid. They laugh and talk, delighting in the simple closeness of family. The baby stares, she stares directly at me, looking as if she knows.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hospital

The ocean sparkles a deep turquoise to the left of the highway. The tall white building rises into the empty blue sky to its right.
It appears to be a resort hotel. Poised with dignity and elegance it offers an awe striking view of the surrounding natural beauty. One jarring inconsistency. Instead of "Valet Parking", the red sign reads EMERGENCY SERVICES.
The cars in the parking lot are arranged neatly in their spaces. Little metal soldiers of red, yellow, blue, black, silver, and white, waiting for orders. The sparkling sun gleams off of their glossy frames and warms the clean black asphalt with its white painted lines. Little concrete lined islands are brimming with orange birds of paradise, red hibiscus, and squatty palms, their fronds spread out like green hands with long pointy tipped fingers.
The glass entrance doors slide open with a hiss. Red upholstered chairs, magazines on rectangular glass table tops with beveled edges, an empty half moon shaped reception desk. A sign over the wall mounted container of hand sanitizer reads: "For Your Convenience". No germs in this hospital.
No signs of life. No nurse. No doctor. No receptionist. Not even germs. Who owns the cars in their spaces?
Further down, beyond the abandoned reception area, a hall under construction. Yellow caution tape. Hand made arrows on children’s craft paper directing the detours. A solitary man in blue scrubs is buffing the dusty floor. His face is turned down to his work showcasing the bald crown of his head encircled by a ring of sparse black hair. A family, faces contorted by concern and bewilderment, moves hesitantly along the corridor. Trying to get to their dying loved one, they pause to look up at the incomprehensible overhead signs, lost in the echoing halls.
An elevator with steel doors. Passersby avoid getting into that elevator. Not now. Not here. It will not take them anywhere they would want to go.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stained Woman

She lays upon a stretcher within the cozy confines of a white ambulance. The thin hospital mattress is covered in a white fitted sheet, its unfitted match covers her below the torso, hiding her spread legs and swollen belly. The emergency vehicle is parked in an abandoned parking lot in an equally desolate section of town. There are no sirens, no speed or haste. The back double doors are open, allowing the quiet breeze to enter the small rectangle. Her torso is uncovered by the sheet, but she wears two blue cotton T-shirts layered upon each other. Over the T-shirts, she has on a blue hooded sweatshirt and a green feather down vest on top of that. Her clothes indicate the cold, but outside, the sky is an unclouded blue and the sun continues to beat upon the black asphalt surrounding the vehicle. Inside the light is dim, illuminated only by the residual light of the day streaming in. A soft breeze enters and lingers, gently touching her face.
The blinking lights from the dashboard continue to flash red and blue and green. Every now and then, a bit of static comes through the radio, kkkkkchhhh….it lasts for a couple of seconds then stops as suddenly as it began. The pillow beneath her head is packed to the seams with fluff, being unrelenting in girth, her head as fallen almost completely off the pillow. Her torso and head lean at a diagonal angle to the left. She moans with pain, unable to control her neck and the heaviness of her head. Her forehead drips with beads of sweat, tiny glistening drops roll from her hairline, down her cheeks, collecting at the tip of her nose teetering on the brink of collapse. Her eyes are open just slightly, giving the faintest indication of consciousness. The eyelids flicker occasionally, but mostly, they remain still and just barely open. Her hair is straight, cut in a strawberry blond bob that reaches just above her shoulders. Her hair is tousled and tangled in the back and because of the drooping angle of her head off the pillow, strands from the right side of her face have streamed over her face to the left, creating diagonal wet lines of hair upon her pale white face. A sprinkling of tan freckles and sunspots dot her nose.
She stares at nothing, consumed by pain but unable to move or scream. Within the silence of the vehicle, she whimpers. After a moment of silence, she moans. There is a red blood stain across her lips. The blood is fresh and wet, still glistening bright in the reflecting light of the windshield. Her mouth is covered in a red gagged puddle of thin liquid, it reaches her upper lip and has stained her chin. She whimpers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hanged Man

There is a roaring blue ocean that churns and roars like a thousand caged lions. Small waves peak and fall. Blue is everywhere, deep and dark, yet smooth as glass. Wind whips the waves like a sadistic lover, shaping cries of frothy white mist and gurgles of surging turquoise foam. Long tails of slick green seaweed undulate like thin dancers just below the surface. The smell on the wind is strong, the scent of moss covered mermaids and Neptunian life is heavy and thick, drifting for miles up the coast.
Sunlight beats down on the essential element, but despite its best efforts, the water remains cold. The shore is a thin strip of land 30 feet wide. It’s covered in small gray and black pebbles and an occasional black seashell. Seagulls rest on the warm rocks and every once in a while, a gull cry is heard. The rocky land ends at a dramatic cliff wall that rises from the sand at a 90 degree angle. Mostly made of sandstone, it glitters in the bright light and small flecks of coral colored sand sparkles.
The bluff above is covered in tall grasses. Long stalks of green, yellow and the various shades between them mingle on the unused land. The wind whips them as well, blowing them left, right…then pressing the blades hard against the earth. They dance endlessly in the constant display of wind power. From the sea, the land rises at a gentle slope towards the west. For each mile, the earth tilts another degree. Up and up it grows, the land remains a constant blanket of two-hued grass. Twenty miles from the water, the land comes to a peak. It is a soft hill, resembling the peak of a woman’s hipbone covered in soft flesh.
Upon the round hill is a structure. It is not a building exactly, there are no distinct walls, doors, or windows. There are levels, distinct floors created with the main building material, metal rods fashioned into large triangles. Each floor is made of 12 upside-down triangular pieces that create the structural base. It is wide, about a hundred feet in length and it continues beyond the limits of sight into the sky.
From the lowest level, a man hangs upside down by one bare foot. His toes are curled over the metallic rod that creates the base of the triangle. The toes of his right leg clutch the rod as the rest of his leg extends straight towards the earth. His left leg is bent and the knee and the bottom of his foot is pressed against his left inner right thigh. The palms of his hands are pressed together, over his heart. On his right wrist, is a black plastic bracelet. His arms are tan and the hairs adorning them have been bleached by the sun. He is young, perhaps twenty four at the most. Dirty blond dreadlocks are wrapped in a high bun atop his head. His feet are bare and tan, his toes dirty from his shoeless lifestyle. Threadbare tan pants are rolled up to his calves.
He hangs… quiet, alone. Above him, the structure looms with power. It appears transparent and empty, without walls or people. But that is only the surface image. The tower is teeming with hidden tunnels, living quarters and life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bookstore

There is the sound of a shoe heel making contact with a wooden floorboard. After a couple seconds, there is another distinct sound. A subdued orchestra of shoe heels moves through the large high-ceilinged room. Without any obvious beat or rhythm, they come in scattered intervals, filling the otherwise quiet space. Dozens of people are milling about slowly, their attention turned exclusively to the many shelves of books. No one is talking, each is lost in their own world of words and paper. Just the sound of slow footsteps and the soft turning of a book page is audible. The soft gold-tinged light of late afternoon filters in through the overhead skylights, the sweet light electrifies the colored book spines and they glow from their resting spots like dilated animal eyes, aglow with possibility. Like the reading room of kings, the walls are completely covered in dark wooden bookshelves. The periphery of the room is a colored spectrum of rectangular book spines that stand neatly upright on their deep shelves. The walls reach at least twenty feet high, and the shelves, crowded with books, reach to the place where wall and ceiling converge. There is not a trace of wall in this house of books, where it not for gravity, the ceiling space would be in use as well. Rolling ladders have been installed to the upper-most wooden shelf lip to facilitate the browsing of books closer to the heavens. This is a well-ordered bookstore, where books of the same genre are grouped together and books are alphabetized by author.
Every stone’s throw, there are plush, high backed armchairs against the bookcases/walls. Each well-worn mauve velvet chair is occupied with a reading patron, and other customers sit with their legs crossed on the floor, browsing through potential purchases. Within the center of the room are islands of wooden tables. The tables are spaced far enough apart so customers can walk and flow around them, checking out the literature from all sides of the table. The tables are old and heavy, with thick sculpted legs and beautiful honey colored wood tops. Just a sliver of tabletop is visible beneath the well organized stacks of books. Each table is devoted to a specific genre. Children’s literature, new releases, mythology…the I Ching is on the corner of a table. A woman in her twenties, with tan skin and long dark hair browses the table with intensity, looking for something specific. There is a small two-shelf black rolling cart, the kind usually found in libraries. A handful of red paperback books has fallen from the cart. The books lay in a scattered pile upon the floor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thirsty Sea Demon

Beyond the sliding glass doors, a rickety dock extends into the water like a wooden tongue thrust from the mouth of the little modular home to probe the briny blue. The rectangular frame of the house and its petite stature make it seem to be hardly more than a box of animal crackers perched precariously at the lip of a swimming pool made to churn by riotous children. Its paneling is light tan, the trim around the sliding glass door is white. The flat roof supplies a scant awning from which a few potted ferns and a spider plant dangle.
There is something of a small porch here, barely wide enough to accommodate a lawn chair composed of yellow and blue plaid vinyl lattice. Four wooden steps drop down from the porch and connect the house to the dock. The dock itself is dark with moisture, its many thick round barnacle covered legs reach down into the hidden green depths. Each plank is wide and riddled with Swiss cheese holes flanked by rusted iron bolt heads. The wood is interrupted by weathered lengths of thick double braided rope interlacing the planks. Along one side, an ancient mariner’s net hangs rotting like the veil of some gargantuan maritime witch. The wind whips wildly about, agitating the surf and setting a wind chime hung near the spider plant into an ecstatic frenzy of jangling.
The waves rock the old dock violently. Above their dark blue orgiastic rampage, high cloud cover darkens and creeps from horizon to shore at a snails pace, driving them increasingly into greater excitement. They grab at the little dock and rock it like the eager and ungovernable hands of a giant.
Out at the end of its length, a woman is balanced with her long legs poised in a wide sprawl. It is the caricatured stance of a cowboy in a standoff. The muscles of her calves, legs, and thighs work to keep her braced atop the dock. The white shorts she wears encapsulate and just barley conceal her tensed buttocks. Her canary colored open necked sweatshirt hangs from one shoulder, revealing the lines of the white racer tank top worn underneath.
In one hand, she holds a dark green corked bottle, raised outward as she shouts commandingly into the wind and at the wall of waves. With the free hand she gestures to six or seven terra cotta pots arranged in a semi circle around her at the docks end. Some of the pots are empty, while others contain only black soil and the withered remains of some long dead plant.
A few are home to sickly pale twists of Jade, made unhappy by their exposure to salty sea spray. They are of various shapes and sizes. Some are in perfect condition. Others are stained and chipped and bear painful long cracks in their sides. Her long blond hair ripples on the wily wind currents, hovering around her head like a flame atop a candle’s wick.
Before her, the waves are suspended, looming over her comparably delicate body and the rickety deck. They have almost assumed the shape of a body, trembling with agitation. With aqueous creature mouths they seem to grin maniacally, then grimace, pointed ears of water flattened back like the ears of an angry cat, while the rest of the surrounding sea continues to froth and churn violently. It wriggles in animated swirls of surf, cerulean laced with white foam, directed upward and held together by supernatural force. In this awkward state of suspended animation, it listens intently to the woman’s shouting, and thus restrained, it watches with anticipation, the whole of its attention captivated by the green bottle of wine and the definitive gesturing.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Paradise

The gate blends almost seamlessly with the fence. Fashioned of some inexpensive wood, it is dark and splintery, unpainted, and unvarnished. It bears many dark grooves, like rough wrinkles in an old man’s face, weather beaten over the countless years since its erection. It is held closed by a small zinc latch secured with a bit of blackened wire. Within its unassuming embrace a garden is tended by nature’s caretakers. Big furry bumblebees, striped with bright bands of yellow and black, busy themselves over the whip-like tendrils of a lavender bush. True to the name, the blossoms are of varying hues of soft and deep lavender, while the stems and leaves of the bush are a frosty green under the coat of fine velvety hairs.
Butterflies with wings of orange and black lace flit lazily about, visiting first one flower, then another. Delicate black legs hold them poised upon branch or bloom as they gingerly extend a long glistening tongue into the secret bed of a flower and draw from it the sweet elixir of life. Tangled vines of musty smelling nasturtiums spill out over stone borders, creep up on faded green cacti and purple tipped succulents, run their long fingers through the dark beds of lavender and unruly humps of catnip. A fuzzy black caterpillar inches its way over the parched bark of a juniper shrub, its body undulating with the motion. In the shallow bowl of a plastic birdbath, a small, dark-eyed winged creature shakes and shivers its tail feathers. Tall elm trees drop clusters of black pods upon a multicolored assortment of natural river rock. They huddle together on the western side of the garden, excluding the sun from their private affair with the stones below.
In the center, concrete stepping stones are pieced together to form a square pathway. Each one bears an impression of a man in a sombrero resting in the shade of a saguaro. Tucked within its perfect perimeters, a vast patch of green grass gazes emptily upward at the blue sky way. Its starkness is marred only by a low-cut stump, the remnants of a once vibrant willow that fell prey to some disease. Now the plot of grass inadvertently serves as a memorial commemorating the life of a tree, its emptiness a nagging reminder of lost fullness.
Adjacent to the garden is a covered porch carpeted with sparkling clean AstroTurf. On one wall, there is a window which looks in through sheer draperies upon a dim master bedroom. On the other wall, a sliding glass door opens into a living room. Big daisy stickers adorn the glass. On a narrow sliver of wall between the glass door and the corner where the two walls join, six decorative flower pots are arranged on a shelf with six individual outcroppings for each pot. The pots themselves are empty, save for a thick layer of dust. Inside the living room, a silver haired old man and a much shorter white haired old woman are waiting. The man stands near the glass door. He is tall and his silver hair is dashingly curly. He wears a pair of overall shorts, in the style of an over grown boy. The buttons which connect the straps to the breast are over sized and fashioned of wood. The creases in his face are deep but soft. His skin is smooth, free of whiskers or stubble. The woman sits upon a chair, she wears a white sweater vest over a brightly colored moo moo. The carpet is a shag rug of a burnt orange color to match the butterfly’s wings.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Four Ways

The alley is clean of debris. A pale gray isle of concrete is flanked on either side by corrugated steel panels. They are free of graffiti and grime, only a faint chalky layer of undisturbed dust has settled on their matte surface. Here and there the corrugated panel give way to a stretch of chain link fence, revealing an urban expanse of concrete. These glimpses are ghostly, void of any movement, or even signs of life. No streets or sky scrapers may be detected; they are not there. Only a desert of abstract concrete plazas and occasional smatterings of chain link cloistered around empty yards of asphalt. The alley opens into such a plaza. It is covered by a large Constantinoplan dome which hangs over a concrete gazebo with yawning arches on four sides.
Where the alley meets one of these archways, a vendor is positioned with a box of round lollipops hanging from his neck. His hands are gloved with fingers exposed in black and purple striped stockings, which are just visible from under the cuffs of his dirty coat. He wears a dingy straw cap from the striped band of which dangles a silk flower, it’s yellow color blotted out behind darks smudges of grease and soot. A wrinkled red scarf is tied around his throat. A visible layer of soot is cast all over him. His toes poke from holes in his sock out of holes in the tips of his shoes. The brown tops separate from the soles like yawning hippos when he moves on his feet.
As people stream by out of the hall, he presses lollipops into their hands as if they are VIP passes. The trickle of individuals tends to clot were he stands dispensing the brightly colored confections with an air of importance.
Inside the plaza, barkers announce the attractions to be found beyond the other archways. One wears a black silk top hat and a worn red jacket coupled with dirty white leggings and high black boots. The jacket hangs open to reveal a dirty striped T-shirt worn over a roll of belly fat. It all hangs from him like a weathered second skin. He stands before a great wooden sign with white lettering inviting and beckoning the folks milling about in the plaza to pass through his archway.
There are other grubby looking vendors peddling their wares. Some hang back in the shadows, other linger in the center arresting the attention of all of those who pass their way. They sell all manner of oddities, silver spoons and old ties, empty cookie tins, and birds houses. Cigars and peanuts and candy are also to be had; there is even a glass walled popcorn cart with its polished silver kettle popping loudly behind the glass and red and gold lettering.
One archway leads to yet another tattered gentlemen pushing lollipops. Beyond him an auditorium with stadium seating is filling up with an assortment of people, young and old. Many are clustered together in groups; a pair here, a trio there, a quintet up front... Some seem to be families, others are packs of friends. A few are seated alone. Projected upon a screen at the front of the auditorium, a spy movie plays out. Much of its appeal lies in that it is a color remake of an older black and white film. Most of the viewers are engrossed in the well known story. Some move from one seat to another, unable to find the perfect spot. In the dim room, the furnishings are still very distinguishable. The carpet is goldenrod in color, clean but worn. The folding seats are all fashioned with faux wood laminate.
A lean man in a crisp dark suit, white shirt and tie, stands near the projector at the back of the room. The image from the screen dances as a reflection upon the lenses of his silver rimmed eye glasses. His posture is erect, his hair neatly trimmed. In his hand he holds note cards with facts about the movie, its plot, political implications, details about the performers, the director, the writer, and the producers.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ladder

The room is far from completion, in fact, the entire construction of the house is long past the estimated time once given by the construction company. The exterior gives the image of completion, horizontal wood panels, painted a cheery robin’s egg blue cloak the exterior walls. From an outsider’s eye, the 2 story house blends in perfectly in this suburban neighborhood; like the dreams of schoolgirls and sentimental architects, this is a house designed to raise a family in. A window with blue shutters adorns the second story, its steepled roof completes the picture. Gardeners have already planted grass and fruit trees in the front yard. The white picket fence will soon be built. But inside, there is no family eating pancakes. The basic structure of the home is laid out, the rooms are divided and the stairs leading to the second story is built, but everywhere wood beams are exposed, awaiting the covering of sheet rock. The floors are covered in plywood and the air is heavy with the smell of sawdust and sweat. There are crumpled newspapers on the ground and remnants of a fast food lunch.
A carpenter in starchy white denim stands in the center of what will be the dining room. The last golden light of a warm afternoon streaks in through the open window-holes, bathing him in a renaissance glow. His forearms are large and tan and covered in sun bleached hair. His thick and sturdy shoulders seem even more capable in the dingy orange t-shirt he wears. In the heat of a fading summer afternoon, dark wet spots adorn his armpits. Most of his shoulder length hair is held back in a rubber band, although some stray curly black hairs, not quite long enough to conform with the others have escaped and stick to his sweaty face. The overalls are worn and brown around the cuffs and small spots of mutli-colored paint make sporadic appearances all over, although the largest concentration of paint dwells on the material that covers his sculpted thick thighs. His habit of constant hand wiping has created a rainbow pool on each leg, not a speck of the white denim can be seen. His right foot, sheathed in a size 12 tan leather boot stands firmly on the ground which is littered with the pencil markings and doodles of construction workers. His left foot is on the lowest rung of an aluminum ladder, his weight providing the extra stability and balance. His arms grip either side of the ladder edges, his forearm muscles bulge with his effort, steadying his partner who stands on the topmost rung.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Immortal Store

It is a tiny and historic little cove of storefronts, a post office, a locksmith, a few empty buildings. Each one is petite, nestled in with its neighbors like the residents of a home for the elderly snuggled together on one faded couch. Plaster has chipped away from the walls revealing red bricks, dust has gathered thickly in window corners, paint is wrinkling and peeling from doorways. Each one has its own distinct character. A few have aged better than others. Well cared for, they smile with cheerful dignity and the wisdom of their age, wearing newer coats of paint on the architecture of bygone eras.
At the very center of this horseshoe gathering, at the end of the cove, one building seems imbued with the enchantments of immortality. Its white columns set it apart in style from its cronies, lending it a classical elegance. Its front door is hidden just five or six little accordion steps below street level, like the pouty lips of a sophisticated woman veiled by a fan. Delicate lace curtains hang like down turned eye lashes in the tall lean rectangular windows that flank the door. Inside, shelves are littered with an array of antiques and ruffled niceties. Crystal platters lay among potpourri sachets tied with bronze colored satin ribbons. Fluted flower vases display little pink rosebuds with thread frayed edges and sprays of tiny acrylic pearls. Most prevalent however are the crowded rows of fine china dolls, forced together like schoolgirls for a class picture. They are lined up together on shelves high and low. Shiny little ringlets of amber, gold, and chestnut hang out from under sailors caps and bonnets and around smiling cherub faces. Red lips, pink lips, peach lips, perfect little noses, and dimpled cheeks, creamy unmarred complexions, all of these features complement their merrily sparkling glass eyes. Blue, green, brown, and even violet, they look out from under thick dark eyelashes, unblinking and unperturbed, frozen in an eternal moment of mirth.
Many clean little dresses hang from racks upon the walls. They are of various sizes and styles, all handmade of satin, crepe, lace, and cotton, accented with little satin rosebuds and bows. A small counter built of panels of white wood plays hostess to a cash register set on top of an over sized crochet doily. The dolls wait expectantly along the walls throughout the store, but those behind the register seem especially demanding of adoration. They are piled upon tiers of shelving behind the little white counter, legs dangling from under luxurious little petticoats.
There are boxes on the floor filled with older dolls of less refinement and worth. Cabbage patch dolls with rubber faces and hair of yellow or orange yarn lie face down among an endless supply of grinning Troll dolls with their tanned pot bellies and tufts of neon hair. An old broken rocking horse is hidden in one corner, lost among the new white wicker carriages designed for carrying elegant dolls. A rusty blue and yellow aluminum top keeps it company, as well as an old tin lunch box turned so that its face can’t be seen. The space itself is very narrow and all of the antiques and toys, seem almost invisible crowded as they are, each stealing the others thunder. The overall effect is an atmosphere of clutter. Only the china dolls behind the register can contend with the silent clamor, drawing attention to themselves through their sameness and unity of perfection.
A powder blue door leads into a small back room another two steps down. In here there are more boxes filled with things that wouldn’t fit or fetch a high price. The majority of the space is occupied by a large, neatly made brass bed attended by an armoire and a petite dresser with an oval mirror. There is a window behind the bed with a sheer white curtain hung over it. Light breathes in through the gossamer fabric, and the shadows of greenery on the other side can be seen pressing upon the glass. Another door opens into a bathroom no bigger than a closet. Within, the porcelain is white and clean and the golden fixtures are polished to gleaming brightness. The floor however, reveals its age in the form of cracked tiles and yellowed grout.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Portal

The earth is covered in dying golden brown grass and leafy hip-high bushes of a blackish-blue hue. Scattered upon the landscape are oak trees, their bark and tiny leaves have absorbed and manifested the darkly colored images that play upon the landscape of heaven. Thick cloud covers have layered themselves upon the sky. Grand streaks of gray and blue sweep overhead, each displaying a slightly different shade of darkness. Despite the clouds, the predominant color is a deep reddish black. It is as though the air itself is red, an invisible red that is somehow tangible at the same time. It is not a bright joyous color, but more of a muted blood mixed with black and nebulous star systems. In all directions, the landscape continues unabated… just grass, trees and shrubs and the dominant sky force. Among this place is a dug-out piece of earth, a large hole about 7 feet deep. The hole resembles a rectangle, because of its two longer opposing sides, but it is also so organically carved that it looks like a choppy oval. The walls of the hole are solid, but very small patches of green grass grow sporadically in the slight grooves and miniscule crevasses of soil. The cutaway earth is rich in minerals, the soil is moist and dark and little pieces of sediment flicker in the light. In the center of the trench, a young woman lays on her left side, maintaining her balance with her left forearm. Her voluptuous hip pushes itself up and forward, offering itself to the gods. She lays like a muse to a painter, relaxed and soft, a soft sensual earth creature dwelling in its place. Her skin is pale and white, and her hair is light, a golden orb of curls and sparkling streaks. She has on rags, a tattered shirt of white linen and a frayed peanut-shell colored skirt. Towards one tip of the hole, where her head is closest to it, there is an open tunnel. Just large enough for a human to crawl through, it is in the direct center of the earth wall. The space inside is completely black, not a sliver of light goes in or comes from it. Resting on her left arm, she uses her right hand to scoop up handfuls of earth. She cups mud colored like pale peaches, the sediment is soft and smooth in her hand and she rubs the thick liquid on her face, painting herself with its color. She takes another handful of mud, this one slightly yellow in color. She rubs it over her hips. Another scoop, this handful contains eggshell colored mud. The silt drips from her forehead, follows a path down her chin. She covers herself in handful after handful of mud, each a slightly different hue of the spectrum found within stone and soil.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Old Apartment

It is a short dead end alley, just off a busy street. On each outer corner there is a large 2 story house, protected by metal bars, broken glass and a tall brick wall. Further down, there is another brick wall and a gate that doesn’t quite hide a long driveway. In front of that is a small apartment building, gray unpainted walls and another thick metal gate that rolls open on tiny wheels. That gate is currently open and leads to a small driveway covered in adobe bricks. At the end of the alley, there is a small parking lot and an old hotel sign made of steel. The actual hotel building is off to one side and is hidden by trees and large bushes. Two middle aged men with small machine guns hanging from their shoulders sit leisurely talking to a giggling maid in a blue outfit. Another man, skinny, brown and wrinkled, wearing a large straw hat and a large machete around his waist, walks back and forth among the cars. The cars are new and polished, most of them with polarized windows and shiny metal logos. In the distance, there is the sound of busy traffic and of a Mariachi band, combined with the barking of dogs and loud laughter.
There is a fourth large house, directly next to one of the hidden walls of the hotel. Its front is completely covered by a 20 feet tall brick wall and two black metal gates. On one of them the words "no parking" are painted. The paint is starting to fade and crack. There are two tiny bell ringers next to the large gates, each with two separate buttons. A smaller door is incorporated into the gate and it is half open. From inside comes the sound of soft conversation and the sporadic clicking of a mechanical typewriter.
There is another door a few feet away, which is closed. That door leads to a small stairway, made of concrete slabs hooked together by a steel framework, that ends in a wooden door. Behind the door is a small apartment, consisting of 3 rooms and a bathroom. The front room is long and narrow. There is a window that faces a gray concrete roof and is covered in metal bars arranged in diagonal patterns. There is a wide, flat couch on the opposite wall and a very small black and white TV in the corner. On the other side of that wall, there is a larger square room, which is almost completely unfurnished, except for a small bed that sits in one corner, carefully made and covered by a colorful blanket. In the farthest corner of that room, there is another door which has been permanently shut. The third room, which connects to the first room by an open doorway, is even larger and slightly more furnished. There is a large bed, unmade and disheveled, in the center, a large and noisy metal fan that slides back and forth on its base as it gyrates, a small wooden armoire in one corner and a second black and white TV. On the floor there is a large open suitcase, the clothes inside thrown in all different directions, unfolded and disorganized. Connecting the two bedrooms, there is a small bathroom, with two doors that don’t close. Inside, there is a slightly dirty shower stall, an old fashioned toilet and a light blue sink, faded and stained.
A man sits in the first room, on the couch. He is about twenty five years old and about six feet tall. He is very skinny and has a long pony tail that trails to the middle of his back. He is wearing a stained white button shirt and black corduroy pants. The shirt is unbuttoned all the way to the waist and it’s drenched in thick sweat. The man’s face and body are also covered in thick sweat. Several scents mingle with his body odor: a slight hint of woman’s perfume, a dash of old fashioned men’s cologne and the strong aroma of a woman’s arousal. He is laying back on the flat couch, looking up at the ceiling and towards the barred window. His eyes are wide open and full of wonderment. His hands periodically clench and release. His mouth mutters the trails of unfinished thoughts, implied questions and broken statements. Every so often, he stretches and exhales loudly. Then his eyes return to the ceiling and the window and the muttering continues. In the distance, a dog barks again and, inside the room, the electric fan continues its droning, overpowering the man’s soft whispers and the sporadic sound of cars driving by outside.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

After Hours Theater

The mall is old and complex. Rather than a single unified design, it appears to have suffered a number of structural additions and modifications through its history, creating an architectural collage where classical styles meet modern and some corners are unplanned combinations of both. In the lower levels, there are long aisles, adorned with tall green plants and small lawns surrounded by metal bars. Over these alleys are narrow bridges that connect the upper areas, combinations of large department stores and restaurants and smaller businesses that are just a little more than holes in the wall. In the higher levels, the predominant wall color is red, but it is punctuated by some white and yellow. In the lower levels, the green of the plants contrasts with the red brick of the paths, the black metal bars and the white walls. The entire place is surrounded by a large parking lot, also organized by large flat level steps that connect through ramps.
Most of the lot is empty and most of the stores are closed. A single old fashioned diner has its lights on, but the chairs are turned upside down on the tables. A bookstore in the lower level is open but there is nobody inside, not even a shopkeeper. Aside from a very few stragglers that scurry about from one dark corner to another, the whole place is silent and desolate, bathed in twilight and the echoes of distant footsteps.
In one of the upper levels, there is an old movie theater, the kind that has several screening rooms. There corner where it sits appears to be specially forgotten and slightly dirty, a place that has been passed by. A long ticket booth, covered in thick glass with small openings for the exchange of money, is still buzzing with the light and sound of its high fluorescent lamps, but there are no ticket sellers. The lobby, covered in a thick red striped carpet, is clean and lit as well, but there are no ushers to be seen. There are small benches on the sides of the lobby, and tall ashtrays and waste baskets standing next to them. Some of the ashes on the trays are still burning.
Shiny posters outside announce the movies that are currently playing inside: two different horror movies, three romantic comedies, a western, a detective story and a drama. Inside, there are several sets of heavy doors that lead to the various theaters. All of them are closed, but an electronic ticker above each one still announces the movies and the hours at which they play. Beside one of the doors, there is a different poster, for a very old black and white movie, showing an elegant woman smoking a very long cigarette and an angry man in a suit and tie, a large drop of sweat dripping across his forehead.
Inside one of the theaters, a horror movie plays. Scenes of violence, fear and pursuit alternate with shorter moments of silence and calm. The light reflects on the screen and vaguely illuminates the few spectators that remain in the room.
There is a young woman in a white shirt and a black skirt. She leans back on her seat, her eyes fluttering between the screen and the theater. Sometimes they close, and she appears to be asleep, but then they open suddenly and she examines her surroundings once again. She is very small, of light skin and black hair. She appears to be concerned about something but doesn’t move away from her seat.
A man sits two rows behind her. He is wearing a thick winter jacket and blue jeans. He is about thirty years old and his eyes also alternate between being shut and watching the screen. Sometimes he looks at the girl that sometimes looks back at him. For a moment they share a moment of questioning, then they both turn back and close their eyes. He is a bit overweight and has the beginnings of a scraggly beard around his chin and cheeks. For an instant, his forehead shows signs of worry, but he leans back once again and concentrates on the film.
The third spectator is an older woman that sits towards the back, on the left hand corner of the theater. She is dressed in a light beige business suit, skin colored stockings and high heels. She has a black leather bag on her lap which she clutches tightly between her thin, slightly wrinkled hands. She recurrently looks to the exit, as if contemplating leaving, but then she looks back at the screen and becomes absorbed in the action once again. Her lips open and close constantly, saying something very softly over and over again.
The scenes of panic and bloodshed continue to play on the big screen before them. The same few people are being killed over and over. The movie is not progressing to an ending and there is no memory of where it started, if it ever did. When the light is particularly bright, the woman looks at her two companions and her muttering becomes just slightly louder.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gathering

It is a large open space, inside a vast modern building. The roof is very high and slightly curved, and scattered throughout are many thick white columns. The walls are white as well, punctuated by light brown and black adornments along the edges. There are large banners high up on the walls and smaller posters at eye level. There are small booths arranged in long rows, forming a criss cross pattern through the hall. Each booth has one or two sellers showing off their items or their skills. People walk from one booth to another, asking questions, admiring the merchandise, talking to each other and sometimes buying a piece. The products are of a wide variety. Some people are selling books and magazines, others sell paintings, sculptures or posters. Others sell unique items: a rare letter from a legendary author, a cross encrusted with the bones of saints, an exotic musical instrument that consists of several layers of cymbals connected by a metal cylinder, a silver scepter said to be from a lost civilization. The sellers are of a wide variety as well. Some are old and sly, wearing overcoats and hats, their eyebrows slant upwards and their smiles seem frozen in place. They know what to say and how to say it, they can respond quickly to any question and have a way of holding their audience in place. Others are young and inexperienced. They sit behind their products, hoping someone will want them and they smile weakly when asked a question, as if asking for forgiveness or pity from the onlookers. The noise of the salesmen and the crowd that moves around them is echoed through the huge space, forming a constant wall of sound that vibrates and feedbacks upon itself.
The entire place is surrounded by a garden. There are several doorways to the garden and they are all open, allowing a gentle breeze to flow through. Outside, people sit, eat and talk. There are many stone paths that connect a multitude of stone tables. There are many cement benches as well, surrounding large carefully trimmed bushes. Several large trees provide shade and there is a large open lawn where kids play. A young boy examines the magical stick that his Dad just bought him. His eyes are full of wonder as they caress every detail of the engravings that cover the stick. The father sits a few feet away, reading a new book while he eats a hot dog. A slight brunette girl poses for her boyfriend wearing a new shiny dress and a pearl necklace she just got. The boyfriend, a young surfer in jeans and a T-shirt, sits and nod in appreciation. An older man with a beard sits with his back against a tree, observing the crowd as it moves past him.
Inside, there is a smaller area that is separated from the main hall only by some bookcases and tables, giving the impression of a self contained room. There are many people there, sitting on metal chairs, arranged like a small theater. They all hold their attention on a middle aged skinny man that stands on a small stage as he speaks onto a microphone. The words that he speaks align with the noise, forming a kind of smooth verbal harmony with the endless conversation that resonates against the walls. A thin blonde woman, wearing a light flowery summer dress, is standing in the midst of the audience and she sings back at the speaker, repeating his words with high melodic flourishes. People applaud sporadically as the woman continues to sing and the man continues to speak. The rational subject of the speech has been lost but something else has been found and it now bounces back and forth between the man and his microphone and the open mouth and heart of the brave innocent singer. An invisible sphere surrounds them and sets them apart from the loud chaos all around. Each word from the man and each high note from the woman seem to expand out and curve around the sphere and give it substance and shape, a kind of almost perceptible translucent blue veil. A woman has noticed what is happening and with her eyes closed, admires their ethereal construction.