Thursday, November 20, 2008


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.