Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Steeple

The sun reached its peak hours before and the light that now spills over the city is gold and fleeting. The walls of the many downtown buildings glow in a muted shade of orange and the sky above has turned a shade of pale blue that only holds the promise of darkness to come. There are no clouds, just endless pale blue. The street is wide and made of multiple lanes of traffic going in both directions. The city is a mixture of ancient and new, old edifices and architecture combined with new street lamps and signs. The street itself is covered with a fresh black layer of asphalt, but the sidewalks on the side are old cobblestone, worn to a shiny finish from years of use. Modern buses wait patiently in traffic beside buildings hundreds of years old. The street is exact and completely straight, breaking from its course only when it meets perpendicularly with another wide road at an intersection. Each lane is full of cars. They wait bumper to bumper, occasionally letting out a desperate honk that does nothing to move the cars ahead of them along. Dark exhaust streams from the back of the city buses. They wait as still as the cars and nearly hidden inside them are scores of passengers that stare out from the tinted windows with a mixture of helplessness and resigned desperation, unable to do anything to change their fate. An occasional motorcycle weaves its way through the congestion, finding the small pockets of space within the mess of metal and exhaust and beeping exasperation of horns. It is not just crowded streets, the sidewalks on either side of the traffic are full of pedestrians. Many of them are tourists, clinging to their maps and cameras and staring open-mouthed at the architecture. There are large baroque buildings that take up entire blocks and between them are grand cathedrals on every other corner. The tourists walk in small groups, adorned with hats and water bottles. Locals weave through them like motorcycles, finding the spaces between the gawking groups of picture-happy tourists. One of the oldest buildings in the downtown area is an old church with a long, narrow steeple made of metal. The building itself is constructed from bricks and rises five stories high. On the body of the building, but close to the steeple, are open square windows. Inside the windows, within the church, are the silhouettes of old people. The church building sways softly in the wind, moving slightly to the right and left, then forwards and backwards.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Lake

The lake is a flat stretch of blue surrounded by a thicket of tall pines. It is wide and long and shaped like an oversized kidney bean with jagged edges. The shore is made of small pebbles and chunks of broken boulders and little bits of soggy tree bark. The cold water comes so close to the edge of the earth that it laps at the edges of the woods, softening the thick trunks with repetitive licks. The trees are a dark green and piled so close together that the ground below them is almost completely shaded. From a distance, the green of the needles nearly descends into black but for the few rogue boughs lined with the yellowing needles of fall. Despite the bright light and the lack of clouds, the wind has a crisp, cold undertone beneath the heated overtone of the sun. The smell of baked pine and earth waft for miles, overcome every so often by the pungent stench of a skunk spray. In the light of the sun, almost all the animals hide in the shadows. Just the birds perch on the tree tips, singing their songs. The woods spread up and up and melt into the mountains that surround the lake like the walls of a valley. Behind the initial wood-covered wall is a rugged range that lasts for miles. By the lake, not a road leads in or out. Not a house speckles the carpet of the greenery. The water of the lake is dark blue, nearly black like the trees. Floating on the top of the water are small pieces of algae. Some of the little pieces are pale green, others are dark and bright. They swirl with the ripples and move below, filling the inner world of the lake with drifting green confetti. Nothing disturbs the water but ripples of laughter. A group of five, three men and two women, are near the center of the lake. There are no boats or boards, they stay afloat with only the continuous movement of their arms and legs. Each one is smiling, letting out an occasional yelp or ring of laughter. The deepness of the water does not frighten them. Nor does the floating green life or the deep blue water or the massive expanse of sky above. Each one takes a turn diving deep into the lake, paddling with enthusiasm, going as far as their breath will carry them. Each one swims freely, diving deep into the unknown.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Drummer

The afternoon sun casts its golden light onto the flat grassy field and the tall conifers surrounding it. It is the last of the warm rays, and the promise of a cool night dances at the park’s edge, ready to overtake the fiery warmth with a cold hand. But for the moment, darkness stays abated, and sweet light covers the park, making the tender grass alive with a yellow lens. On the warm greenery is a group of three young men with a bicycle laying upside-down beside them. Two of them look to the ground, to the open newspaper between them. The other man stares into the distance, at a young woman with a camera pointed in his direction. Not far from the group, a middle aged man sits cross-legged while filling a rolling paper with long strands of tobacco. In the far distance, a young man in a red sweatshirt stares at the screen on his cell phone.
The flat field is surrounded by a narrow black asphalt path, which, by its design, has created a large rounded-edge square of the grass. On the other side of the sidewalk is the mound of a small grassy hill. The hill is long, and its shape creates an amphitheater-like viewing of the flat field below. Two men lounge on the grass of the hill, they each lay on their side, just barely looking up at the man in cargo pants standing between them.
Between the men on the hill and the asphalt sidewalk is a long green bench. Its left side is occupied by a muscular black man who is as home on the bench as anywhere else. His beard is trim and completely white. The hair on his eyebrows and arms is also white. His chocolate-colored skin is smooth and taut. He wears a pair of clean blue jeans and a yellow fleece vest over a collared T-shirt. Above his plaid shirt is an ornate silver cross that is a few inches long. There is a black beanie on his head. Both his wrists are adorned with two metal bracelets of braided copper and silver. Beside the bench are his tan leather boots, the socks tucked neatly into the foot-holes. Draped casually over the back of the bench is his extra sweatshirt. Between his legs is a tall red drum. Well-worn hands are in mid beat as his eyes trail, watching the golden-tinged sights before him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Artist

The artist is leaning back, the paintbrush poised delicately between the fingers of an upraised hand. The brush is long and slender, a light wooden wand with blond bristles. Her fingernails are long and surprisingly clean, white tipped. Her smile radiates not only from her parted lips that reveal white teeth and the pink inside of her mouth, but also, more prominently, that smile shines in her glittering black eyes. She wears an apron decorated with pink roses over a black tank top. The table is covered with clean newspapers. There is not a stray splash of paint to be seen. The canvass standing on the table top over the support of a small easel is already halfway covered with paint. The emerging scene is a larger replication of a scene depicted on a small note pad that rests on the table top just below the canvass. Both are representations of little wooden dolls like the one that can barely be seen peeping around the edge of the canvas. Only its round pink cheek and wide almond shaped eye are visible along with the wave of visible hair that frames her face and the white cap that tops it. The eyes of the little doll and of the drawn doll and painted doll are all big eyes, dark in the center like the painter’s shiny black eyes. They are all replicas of the original, with her pink cheek and wave of dark hair crowning her head. The careful reproductions are all copies, a copy of a copy of a copy of a woman. A woman with high arched brows and pink lips and flowers on her clothes. A woman who makes things with her hands and knows the secret of making things and smiles with the knowledge of it. A goddess that has unraveled the secret of creation and does it so carefully, so painstakingly, that not a single line goes stray, that not one petite droplet of color falls wasted on the workspace or smeared on a hand or cheek. Even the brush is clean, as if the painting is being produced with nothing more than a carefully concentrated attention that burns the image upon the canvass at the painter’s will. Another pair of clean brushes can be seen poking out of a can, their bristles pointing upward just above the head of the small wooden doll that remains partially concealed by the canvass. Everything is clean. Every line is in place. And the artist beams with the joy of creation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Forest

A man walks on a dirt path. He is alone, aided only by two tools in each hand. The path meanders gently, the foliage along the edges determines its uneven shape amongst the forest. The narrow bit of uncovered earth carved between the trees and bushes is just wide enough for his feet and the metal walking stick he carries in his left hand. His right hand clutches the handle of a black umbrella to shield him from the miniscule drops of mist that come with the low hanging clouds. The man is dressed for a cool day. He wears a long-sleeved purple rain slicker and dark pants to repel the rolling mist. He smiles contentedly in mid-stride, his hands easily wrapped around his tools. The walking stick is a half a foot away from his feet, continuously scanning for rocks and mud and loose earth. His umbrella is raised a few feet from the crown of his head, as though waiting for a strong wind to carry him away. His smile reveals his ease amid the air of fall, which holds the whispers of rain and the yellowing promise of winter. In the distance are lush green pine trees which reach hundreds of feet into the sky, their long needles sit patently while delicate beads of moisture fall onto them, releasing their scent. Creating a green carpet on the forest floor are low-growing ivy with thick waxy leaves. Their leaves are shiny beneath the thin coating of mist that has found its way through the boughs and leaves of taller trees. A few feet ahead of the man are the immediate signs of a changing season. On his left, a large Japanese Maple has begun to shed, the path is littered in patches of leaves in various states of decay…brown and tan and beige carcasses are each in the slow process of transformation. The branches of the maple are covered in soft six-pointed leaves that are all a uniform shade of banana yellow. On the right side of the path, the long curved branches of a fern are completely dried and brown. It is not the mark of fall, but a breakdown of the plant itself. One lone yellow leaf floats in the air a foot from the fern. It is not the maple leaf, for the singular shape has only five points. It floats down from an unseen bough.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Plaza

The early evening light is the palest of blues. It marks closing time, the end of another cycle of light, to be replaced by twelve hours of darkness. The sun has just begun to fall behind the wall of straight buildings. Dozens and dozens of them make the city skyline. There are the large mirrored homes of finance that reach towards the clouds, the more squat government buildings and the high-rise condos marked on each level by balconies. Interspersed among the modern buildings are the few brick constructions that have managed to survive earthquakes and fires. Adorned with the marks of their craftsmen, they contrast with the straight, sleek lines of modern architecture.
Cutting through the clustered marks of men are geometrical streets. Black and marked with yellow lines, the roads sit without the faintest curve, providing only 90 degree angles in evenly divided intervals. The low golden sun shines against the reflected glass of the downtown buildings like light on sequins, calling out for one last acknowledgment before it says goodnight. Ample rectangles and squares shine like electric gold with its last rays.
The downtown streets are bustling. Men in dark tailored suits and women wearing black heels and fitted skirts flow out of the buildings and into the crowded sidewalks. They are like rivers that ebb and flow with the alarm clock’s set intervals.
In the middle of the financial center is a large cement plaza. The periphery of the plaza is a single row of green grass and sparsely planted trees that are thin and tall as some of the shortest buildings. Two sides of the plaza have buildings that create a wall behind it, but the other two connected sides are open and face two streets perpendicular from each other.
One of the open sides has a single doorway with an open wrought iron gate. The doorway is made of stacked rocks and mortar, but the long walls around it have fallen long ago, leaving only the frame of the doorway and the tall gate itself.
The flow of business people walk through the square diagonally, coming from the corner beside the wall and the street and flowing out through the wrought iron gate. Close to the center of the plaza is a young blond woman with a microphone. She is talking and pointing to the moveable statue of a thick man with a trombone held to his mouth. Coming out of the trombone is a large fake tuna fish. A small crowd of business people are gathered around the woman and the statue. They are laughing at each pause in her speech, nearly doubling over with her jokes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Wet Mountain

There is a rocky mountainside, covered halfway up in stones the size of human heads. All the boulders are dark gray and cold and slightly wet. The mountain is wide and tall, but it connects to an even larger mountain range to the north. In the distance, the mountains are brown and barren and covered only in scattered patches of dry grass. The sun is hiding somewhere behind a thick haze of clouds. The light is still very bright, the kind of light that requires squinting. The day seems new, but slightly drained in energy, as though something very intense has just vanished and what remains is slightly diminished. At the base of the mountain range is a receding sea. The water is dark blue and choppy with white caps. It flows out towards the horizon in a hurry, as though something was waiting for it beyond the thin line of sight. The wide mountain is mostly covered in heavy rocks, but as the mound moves closer to a tip, the rocks become smaller and smaller, until they are just small pebbles hidden between blades of dried grass. There is one four foot trail that travels the length of earth from peak to ocean, but there are other scattered trails that are much thinner, only wide enough for one person at a time. Close to the shore is a thicket of trees beside a clearing thirty feet wide. They are as tall and thin as eucalyptus, only they have darker and wider leaves and more full reaching boughs that create a wide canopy. The clearing is smooth and flat and free of all rocks. Because of the trees, it is covered in a nearly green-black shade. The earth here is damp and smells of wet bark. To the left of the clearing and trees is a grouping of dark wood condominiums. The singular structure is angular and modern and would give off a very cold emotion if not for the wood used to construct it. The collection of two-story houses each have double pane windows and wide sliding glass doorways that face the seashore and the thicket of trees. On the lower floor, beside a sliding glass door, is a dead white horse laying on the ground. Its legs are curled close to its body in the fetal position. The glass doors reveal the occupants of the houses. There are people. They are swollen and pale and laying on their backs on the damp linoleum of their kitchens. Their bodies are moist, as are the T-shirts and shorts which clothe their bloated bodies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Iron Forge

The snow blankets the enormous conifers and distant peaks and the ground, glittering like quartz. The tents in the area form a vague and uneven circle, leaving wide distances between some and almost none between others. There are two varieties, one that is completely enclosed and shaped like a giant mushroom sewn of tanned hides and another that is a simple canopy open on three sides. Everywhere about the encampment, kegs are stacked in pyramids and clumped together in hasty trios. They vary in size from the very small to the enormous, large enough to make a comfortable room for one of the short bearded men littering the camp. Here and there, a keg has been tapped and an assortment of characters is gathered.
The most predominant figures are the short men with their long braided beards and arms and legs bursting with muscles, but there are others as well, a few men, usually armored warriors with a weathered air about them and women as well, with their red hair pulled back in braids and their eyes shining with a hard cold light used to spying stretches of open road or smoldering battlefields. For now they laugh and toast one another’s health and drink frothy brew from beautifully decorated steins.
A tall creature with pale skin and long pointed ears protruding through the silken threads of her cascading blue hair stands apart from the crowds dancing in the center by herself. She wears a red skirt that hangs about her front and back like a loincloth leaving her long legs and toned thighs exposed. Her top barely conceals her moderate cleavage and leaves her mid drift bare. Warmed with liquor and oblivious to the cold, she dances with the sinewy movements of a serpent.
Another similar creature is inspecting a rather large ram, the mount of one of the stocky little men. The creature with the pointed ears looks into the beast’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth while the small man belches and attempts to explain the appropriate way to handle the ram, swaying all the while and occasionally loosing his train of thought or reaching out to steady himself against the taller creature’s kneecap. Every so often, a rider charges into the encampment and the motley crew cheers a greeting. They find themselves a place near a keg or by a small fire where something roasts on a spit and little men already sit around chewing at roasted meats and loosing gristle in their beards.
The sky overhead is a steely gray and a red sun sinks slowly behind the far off neighboring peaks. Horses waiting for their riders stamp the snow and whine to each other and munch bales of hay alongside with rams, while keeping a wary eye on the camp dogs who chew bones with wolfish grins and turn their pointy ears to listen to the laughter and singing of the men.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mirror in the Garage

The interior of an old garage smells faintly of old wood and earth. The air is cool and damp although soft light still filters in from the row of windows on the very top of the garage door. The cement floor is cold. It is a pale gray color which is free of any oil spots or spider carcasses or balls of dust and hair. It is a large square space that is filled only with half a dozen white washing machines and an old couch which is a few feet away from being in the center of the space. The couch is facing one of the walls. There are no shelves of built-in wood cabinets. No boxes, no resting cars. The walls are covered in white drywall. The couch is long enough for three people to sit comfortably. But it is a stern couch that lacks comfort and padding. The sides have a thin layer of stuffing, but it is not fluffy or good for resting a head. It is somber and very straight. It does not invite a nap. The upholstery is tan. It is made of many woven little strings in varying hues of brown, beige and tan fibers that combine to form a tweed fabric. There are two people on the couch. They sit close, revealing their intimate knowledge of each other’s bodies. There is a young woman, she is slender and has shoulder length brown hair that is mostly straight but has a few waves. The man, who has his arm draped around her comfortably, has a black beard and long black hair that is pulled behind him in a pony tail. He has a black hat on with a short wide bill, the kind of hat made popular by leftist-guerillas in the tropics of Central America. He has a t-shirt that is almost hidden by a black jeans jacket, but left-leaning political messages sprout from the semi-visible garment. Both their eyes are fixed on the doorway five feet away from them. The door connects to the neighbor’s house. The door has a mirror attached to it and they see their reflection. Him, with his hat. Her, with her big brown eyes. They look into the mirror, but not only does their reflection greet them, but they see a portly woman. She is in the mirror, she is behind the door which is actually not covered in reflective glass, but tinted glass. She is motionless and staring at them. She has short blond hair and large breasts. Her wide stomach is covered in the fabric of her patterned apron. The couple looks into the glass and see her, they see the living room which stands behind her. She stares at them, at the couple sitting on a couch in a white garage.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Darkness All Around


Dark, dark night of dewy grass and forgotten lots. A car is parked alongside a misty road, a white four door Sedan with rounded edges. Three doors are open and the overhead light is on, illuminating the interior of tan upholstery and carpet. Moored in a little bay of black asphalt, it glows warmly like a candle in a dark room. Around it the mist roll and curl and obscure dark stretches of road beyond the small empty parking lot and vaster blankets of green grass. It eclipses the yellowed bodies of naked trees whose leaves have blown far away, leaving only a few little golden tokens spread about the bed of grass.
The sky is void of the twinkle of stars huddled behind the invisible cover of clouds. Without street lamps or the light of civilization, the sky above is unfathomable and inky. The headlights of the parked white car shine out a few feet from its nose, casting their beam over the grassy floor and sea of sparse trees being swallowed by the voracious fog.
A tall young man stands in the parking lot embracing a young woman. He is clad in a bright red cape donned over crisp blue jeans and a new polo shirt of a dark navy hue accented by a band of lightly colored stripes that encircle his chest. The red satin horns of a devil are pinned on his head. His face is clean shaven, his short cropped hair is dark, his eyes are gentle and deer-like. He is engaged in pressing the girl enthusiastically to his breast, his cape rippling in the breeze that moves the white fog around them in sheets of mobile moisture.
The woman holds a video camera in one hand and presses her blonde head receptively into his heart. Her clothes are shabby and oversized, faded wide-leg denim coupled with a baggy long sleeved T-shirt.
A milk chocolate skinned black girl with silky rings of curled hair falling around her Egyptian looking face stands apart from the couple, hovering near the car. Her arms are crossed in front of her body and she stands with her weight resting more heavily on one leg than the other, like a crane poised in the banks of the Nile. Her brows are expertly shaped, her lips are glossy. She wears big slim hoop earrings and a white shearling jacket with slim jeans that accent her diminutive physique.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dirt Parking Lot

There is a narrow street that comes from a bustling downtown far in the distance. As the road curves, two large white grocery stores are all that is left of motion and commerce. The buildings have no distinguishing features other than being extremely large and brick-like and off-white in color. From the curve in the road, just past the stores, the road descends at a very slight angle and opens up into a large rectangular parking lot. It stretches for a quarter of a mile, then turns once again into a narrow road that leads to suburban neighborhoods far in the distance.
The boundary of the parking lot is defined by tall green-topped pine trees that stand parallel to each other for the length of the lot. There are aging brown needles on the ground right below the trees. The surface of the parking lot is a light brown compact dust. There are a few small gray rocks strewn about the lot and a few large boulders beneath the surface of earth that create slightly raised bumps, but otherwise, the parking lot is a level surface. Just a couple of feet from the base of the pine trunks are parked cars lined up side by side. Just a single row on each side of the parking lot…. red, blue, tan, black and white cars sit silently beneath the trees. The center of the parking lot is a large open space that is free from any metal or rock or bump.
The sun is shining and the needles of the trees shuffle slightly as drops of light-coated raindrops fall from the sky. A young white man with short disheveled hair and white pants is in the center of the lot. His hands are raised and his palms face the sky. He is twirling and spinning, turning around and around. A couple of steps from him is a young, plump woman with a long, flowing skirt and a white spaghetti-strapped tank top. She is balancing one young baby on each of her hips. She is spinning and twirling, gripping the children tightly as she moves. A couple of steps from them is another young, slender woman with brown hair and olive skin, she is spinning and twirling and turning, her hands are raised up, her palms open to the raindrops as they cover her in glistening drops of blue and white light. The three of them form a loose triangle. Beneath the rain and surrounded by empty cars and imposing pine trees, they spin. The rain moves down upon them, soaking them in drops of glistening liquid. The sun is somewhere close, unhidden behind a cloud.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The King's Tent

There is a barren valley of soft dry earth. Surrounding the flat land are short jagged hillsides covered in dry yellow grass. The sun is out, undisturbed by a single cloud. The light is extremely bright, reflecting off the hillsides with tremendous force and sending up wavering transparent waves from the hot ground. The hillsides are undisturbed by man, not a house or a planted tree rest on its surface. In the valley, a narrow blue river tumbles by, finding its way over small rocks and large boulders.
The singular structure on the flat valley floor is a simple rectangular tent. The temporary structure is 200 feet long and twenty feet wide. The walls, made from a mixture of pale linen and canvas are twenty feet high and meet at a point in the center of the tent, creating a long peak that stretches the length of the tent. The smaller sides of the tent have two open spaces in the shape of an over-sized door. A cool breeze runs between the two ends.
Inside the tent is the warm yellow light of the diffused sun, it is calm and quiet within. Cut from the fabric on the long sides are square holes for windows, there are fifteen on each side of the long structure. The windows are wide open to the elements outside. Along both long walls is a single row of wooden chairs that face each other. The arrangement leaves plenty of room in the center, creating a wide aisle of fine dirt that has been covered in maroon rugs with intricate patterns of blue and yellow.
In the chairs are women and men, most of them under thirty, their skin taut and pale. The women are wearing dresses made of silk and satin. Their skirts are fluffy and their necklines dip deep, revealing cleavage and bare soft necks that are caressed in fallen curls. The men among them wear tailored pants in pale patterns and small form-fitting vests and flowing white shirts with ruffled collars and cuffs.
One third of the way down from the front entrance, a king of the people sits in the simple wooden chair. He is built like a large bear. He is wide and tall and is formidable in his thick dark cloak made of fur and velvet. He sits looking forward and stoic, his left hand is on his knee, the other hand is on the armrest. A young woman to his left repeatedly nudges her long Semitic nose into his chest.
In the distance, by the river, the sound of townspeople creates a murmur. There are the sounds of excited women and men and screeching young children. Only their voices reveal their location. They shout their jeers and insults at no one in particular.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

House

There is a house that sits at the curved tip of a quiet cul de sac. The sun is out and the five street lamps have been turned off. There are no children, no cars, nothing but the gentle rustle of a breeze. The front yard and the length of the entire house is shielded from the street by a wall of dark green bushes that reach 25 feet high with a denseness of three feet from the sidewalk. The foliage stretches from the edge of the property to the opening of the driveway, the only path free of bushes and green that leads to the house. The faded black asphalt has been made bumpy and mountainous from the thick tree roots just below the hardened layer of man, a testament to the patience of nature that will conquer all with time. Both the right and left side of the driveway are surrounded by tall green bushes. There is a single car parked silently in the driveway, a faded green Chevrolet that has sat in the same spot for three decades. The car is long and wide and emits a constant drip of oil that is caught in the metal basin below its hood. Just past the car is a white garage door that no longer opens. It was once pure white, but the paint has fallen off in large strips and the edges of the wooden door reveal gray wood damaged by sun and rain and wind. To the right of the asphalt there is a slender break in the bushes which opens to a slender cement walkway that extends 15 feet and then makes an abrupt left for another five feet, ending at an open white wooden door, the center of which has a grid-like pattern of beveled orange glass.
Between the bushes and the cement walkway is a tended rectangular garden. Although the property itself is angular, a slender strip of plastic fencing has been placed in the shape of a large circle, about thirty feet in diameter. This shape is the heart of the garden, the mandala around which everything revolves, all other plants surround it like ladies in waiting. The perimeter of the circle is made silver by small bunches of fuzzy lamb’s ear. Interspersed among the silver are patches of vibrant blue lobelia. Small ceramic gnomes and cats and porcelain figurines of English ladies dot the landscape. In the center of the circle is a white ceramic fountain, a chubby, naked Roman boy, dancing amid fluttering ribbons in the midst of a non-existent wind. The yard is quiet, a soft breeze just barely moves the leaves of the tall bushes along the sidewalk. Spotted shade and sunlight speckle the yard in the late afternoon sun. The house faces the yard, a row of windows with gauzy curtains reveal nothing of the world inside. Below the windows, in the small space of earth between the house and the cement walkway, tall bushes of red and pink geraniums glow in the speckled sunlight.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homestead

The modular unit is suspended on cinder blocks to keep it raised above the dusty earth. Jagged shards of glass remain in the shattered windows like vicious loose teeth. Pieces of shredded black plastic hang from the underside, fluttering spastically in the softly whispering wind like tattered flags in the murk beneath the mobile. The door frame stands unobstructed, the door having been removed from the hinges and lost long ago. Inside, the floor is littered with chipped plaster and dirt. Menacing black holes have been burned into the carpet and streaks of red and black graffiti shout from the barren walls. The doorway opens into an empty living area, one side of which is open to the world. Instead of a wall, some of the clear plastic that sealed it when it was being moved down highways in some far flung past is still intact. It is yellowed and brittle with an age exacerbated by rare but biting rains, ferocious wind and relentless sun . In some places, it is shredded and dangles like ribbons. Clear packing tape has been applied here and there to close some holes and connect severed fragments. The view through its filmy lens is of a dusty lot that slopes downhill and meets bare boulders and a pair of thirsty pepper trees.
Beyond the open living room, a hall connects three bedrooms and a bathroom. The doors are missing from two of the bedrooms and the bathroom. One room still has a door and it is closed. A soiled mattress rests on the floor of one of the back rooms. It almost fills the room. A woman is sleeping under a coarse and dirty blanket. Her brown hair is matted, her fingers and face are blackened with soot or grease. The other open room is empty. A few flannel shirts are scattered on the floor. The murmur of voices locked in discussion rises from behind the closed door. Behind the mobile, the bald hill peaks and looks over the wasteland. There is a gutted car with a roll cage set up on more cinder blocks. Rusting car parts are spread all over the ground. A burnt out oil drum stands in the center of a ring of broken down arm chairs, couch cushions, tires, egg crates, and busted lawn chairs.
Another lonely pepper tree waves its thirsty fern-like fingers in the hot breeze from its post at the crest of the hill. The steep and pebbly drop off below is littered with white boulders and debris. Ancient rusted tin cans, bits of plastic that might once have been potato chip bags, thread worn rags hide among the dry weeds and boulders marred with graffiti. The drop melts into many minor rolls of earth that reach into the distance. Nestled in their far away bosom, a dirt road lays like a long twitching tongue of earth.
A greasy man with a stripe of gray hair hanging from an otherwise bare skull stands on the edge chewing a tiny twig from the pepper tree. His face and hands are smudged with the black grease so that his pink skin only emerges as patches like land masses adrift in an oily sea. A pair of shaded goggles are strapped over his eyes and his faded purple tee shirt is cut off high above his navel. Jean shorts, once black, are almost gray and cut off just above his knees. He watches the road below, chewing the twig and cleaning his teeth with slow thoughtful relish. The hand that presses the twig to his yellow teeth is clad in a black bike glove, the sort that leaves the fingers exposed, covers the palm and is fastened with Velcro at the back of the hand. His boots are cracked and worn so that creases of brown leather are visible amid the splintering black finish like little veins. The socks sticking out of the top are discolored by sweat and grease. Nothing disturbs the distant road. Farther out, there are patches of green and distant purple mountains.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bedroom

In the elbow of a curving street is an orange two-story house. Shaped as a box, the house rests on the edge of a steep hill covered in ivy and yellow wild mustard and a small dense grove of eucalyptus. On the first floor, in the back of the house which faces the tall trees, is a small studio apartment. It is a small walled-off part of the downstairs garage. There is a glossy white-walled kitchen with a small white refrigerator. To the right of the fridge is a clean and empty chrome sink with a gray countertop beside it. A white gas burning stove sits perpendicular to the counter. The circular spaces below the iron burners are a little dirty and greasy from meals past. The two back burners are piled high with clean pots and pans which are two big for the tiny cupboards above the stove. Through the open doorway of the kitchen is the bedroom of pale gray walls. The floor space is nearly full with the double bed and a five drawer wooden dresser. Through another open doorway, past the dresser, is the bathroom that has a small window slightly ajar, facing north. Both the kitchen and the bedroom have one large double-paned window, facing west, which looks out onto the concrete backyard, the wooden fence at its border, and the eucalyptus grove just a couple of feet away. The entire studio, from entrance to bathroom, can be crossed in 15 steps. Tan linoleum squares that have diamond-shaped designs in the center cover the entire studio. There is a young woman in the bedroom, she lays curled up on her side facing the light coming in through the window just an inch away. The mattress is soft below her, giving slightly below the weight of her hip. All the florescent overhead lighting is off, the space is lit brightly with the incoming day. The neighbors above are silent. The day is new, just past noon. The light is bright, shielded from any warmth by a thick layer of clouds. The young woman, laying in a man’s pajama top and nothing else, has her eyes closed. Her torso is elevated by two thin pillows covered in thread-bare Disney patterned pillowcases. Her lower torso and legs are covered in two blankets. Just above her skin is a fluffy maroon down comforter, above which is a fuzzy thin blanket of red, blue, orange, and green, colors which form the image of a bright peacock. Three buttons of the pajama top are unbuttoned, exposing her chest to the cool moist air coming through the open bedroom window. Inside, a lingering smell of burnt sage combines with the subtle scent of eucalyptus leaves coming with the wind. Outside, the long, thick leaves rustle in gusts of fog coming from the sea 10 miles east. There are birds chirping outside, undisturbed by the gray weather. Her arms are drawn together towards her chest, her hands just a little above her heart. A couple of houses away, a neighbor is working in his yard, pieces of lumber fall in irregular intervals, each time making a quick sound that quiets the birds down.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bathroom

There is a long hallway that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. On the right side of the hallway is a pale blond door. There is no handle on the door, just a smooth piece of shiny metal on the right side a little bit above where a handle should be. The door opens easily. From the wooden doorway, the room opens up into a triangle, the door being the point of the triangle and the wall six feet ahead is the base of the triangle. This particular triangular base is half-covered in a spotless mirror. There is reflection from the exact place where ceiling meets wall down to three feet from the ground where a two foot shelf extends from the wall. This is a place for handbags and diaper changing and for resting small children. The shelf is made from a very thick black plastic, strong enough to hold many tons.
There is a little girl sitting on the shelf. She is three years old. She has a mixture of white and pink skin and silky blond hair that hangs in small curls around her face. Her older brother is standing just in front of her. The little boy is five and he is putting red lipstick on her already pink lips. There are two women standing near the children. The women are eating out of small sandwich bags. Their hands dip into the clear bags and pull out small snacks and they tip their heads back and drop in the little bits of food. In between chewing and dipping and tilting their heads, the women talk and gossip about people that are outside the blond wooden door.
The room is really only a triangle on one side, the side to the left of the door. The other side of the room is a half-square and has two right angles. In front of this wall are three porcelain sinks. The sinks each stand on one smooth leg that tapers from a wide bowl down to a smaller point at the ground. The sinks are clean and cold and very white, but they are much smaller than many common sinks, and only stand a couple feet off the tiled floor. Perpendicular to the sinks are a row of three toilet stalls. The walls of the stalls are made of navy blue metal that share only a couple pale white scratches between them. The floor is covered in very small square tiles, most of them are white but there are a couple black ones every couple of feet. Hanging from the ceiling is a singular light, a lone bulb that hangs from the center of the room.
There is a girl in one of the toilet stalls. She is quiet, standing close to the narrow space between the metal door and wall, she watches the little boy applying lipstick to his sister and hears the hushed tones of women gossiping.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Gilded Building

A dark narrow street opens and expands into a large open air plaza. The large square space is covered in smooth pale bricks that approximate the colors of earth and clay and dried grass. The differently hued bricks trade places with each other and create a speckled palette for the eye. There are dozens of tourists and gray pigeons that mingle in the plaza, all of them walking slowly, gazing at the ground, at the buildings, taking in the bright sunny day. In the center of the plaza is a short waterless round fountain that is nearly invisible with the throngs of people surrounding it. Men in shorts and T-shirts have their cameras in front of their eyes, attempting to capture the architecture around them.
To the left of the entrance and on the right side of the plaza is a simple one-story building which has an open, dark hallway cut through the middle of it. It houses the maintenance supply room and a small gift shop. There is an air of stillness and mystery that surrounds the darkened hallway. There is no one moving through it, either into or out of the square. Directly in front of the entrance are two tall rectangular buildings, each covered in white stucco. To the left of the entranceway is a grand and imposing building covered in smooth white stucco. Its bottom resembles a rectangle and in the center is a large arched doorway made of planked wood. Many thin plate-glass windows line the front face of the building, each one is outlined in dark blue trim. The center of the roof is domed and covered in gild. In each of the four corners there are clusters of squat gilded towers of varying heights. The dome and towers gleam in the bright sunlight.
Inside, the domed building is crowded with row after row of long wooden bench tables and back-less wooden benches acting as seats. Upon all the tables are place-settings of tan porcelain and white linen napkins and crystal goblets. The seats are occupied by men and women who sit shoulder to shoulder. The women are in matching maroon dresses that have low horizontal necklines and reveal plump bosoms and lacy camisoles tucked beneath the maroon satin. The bust-lines are tight and synch at the waist, but the skirts are made full with white petticoats. Each woman has her hair held back in a woven hairnet that has pearls embedded in each crossing thread. The men’s suits are made from the same maroon satin. There are matching trousers and blazers and white shirts with ruffles that protrude from the chest and rise to the collar. On their heads are brown brimmed hats adorned with red feathers on the right side.
Each man and woman practices lifting their spoons in perfect unison. The lifting of their hands, the way each expertly holds their spoon, reveals the insignia tattooed on the small piece of skin between their thumbs and index fingers. There is a maestro at the front of the room, a thin woman who has the posture, body, and dress of a man. She holds a thin metal rod to communicate with the group in unison.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ranch House

The darkness wraps around the low lying ranch house like blanket. All around it, the vast countryside is quiet and dark, an extension of the shadowy gardens that make up the estate. The warm yellow light of fire spills out of the windows of the house, laced with laughter and faint music. The door is ajar, casting a sliver of illumination onto the porch where an orange plastic bowl adorned with black cats and cartoon ghosts sits filled with individually wrapped sweets. It is a single story home adorned with wrought iron lanterns and wooden shutters and doors; frosted with stucco like a mocha flavored cake topped with a red tile roof. The house rests like a sphinx, stretched out upon the earth, gazing with glowing eyes into the night. The air is damp and filled with the autumn odor of crushed leaves, damp hay, and moist ground cover. A mischievous wind promotes these scents and adds a fresh ionized quality to them as they circulate together, wailing and whispering over fences and through the branches of trees. Many little gardens surround the house. Each unique community of plants is linked by stone lined paths of compacted dirt. In some, there grow little pea plants, broccoli, and other plants which are presently out of season so that their little beds of soil lay dormant. In other gardens, squash grows happily on twining green vines adorned with broad leaves that specialize in soaking up the photovoltaic power of the sun. Other garden patches are for flowers and ornamental shrubs. Little brass wind chimes hang from trellises laden with creepers. Weathered wood and wrought iron benches appear in little coves off of the main pathways. These are usually accompanied by trees. Some are laden with little green apples, others bow under the weight of ripe red pomegranates. Yet others are standing naked upon a blanket of their discarded leaves, ready for a long nap before spring returns to insist that they put on flowers for her. There are stepping stones with designs engraved upon them; butterflies, flowers and the like, positioned to add beauty rather than to serve any functional purpose. Now and again, a bird bath is tucked along some path, but the waters in them are filled with soggy yellow leaves. The little dirt trails wind their way through the gardens in search of the buildings that make up the estate; wooden barns that house workshop space instead of livestock, a cottage or two for guests or servants and sheds for gardening tools. They make up their own little village set in the vast nothingness, adrift in a sea of field grass and old oak trees that sprawl out into the blackness of night. A dirt road passes the east side of the ranch house, a main road that must lead to other lonesome estates, and farther off it must at some point connect to one of the black roads of civilization. Here, however, it sleeps silently under the moon whose white fullness is obscured by black clouds that assume phantasmal shapes. They drift across that glowing patch of sky, absorbing the illumination and keeping it to themselves, using it as a backdrop to showcase their eerie forms. The road trails off at the crest of a hill in the north. Crowning the hill on the west side of the road is a gnarled old oak that bends over like a an elderly giant with a crooked back. The grasses sway and shake when the winds icy hand rumples them like a brother mussing up the hair of a younger sister. The grass protests with a low hiss and the wind howls with delight.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pool

The sky is huge, an enormous canvas of blue that seems both far away and close enough to grab the couple of white puffy clouds that decorate its blueness. For miles and miles, there are rolling hillsides covered in yellow and brown grass. Twisted oak trees and small mounds of low growing green shrubs populate the hillsides. The landscape is empty, no powerlines, no cows, no houses, just the soft contours of earth and green speckles of umbrage. Tucked in the contours of the hills, on a naturally level space, is a kidney shaped pool. Carved into the lawn of cultivated green grass, the pool is outlined with walls of cement and filled with crystal clear blue water. The water sparkles with diamonds of light as sun meets with wind-induced ripples. It is completely clean, except for the fact that all the leaves of the nearby maple, the tree that hangs over the pool like a green umbrella, have been swept into the pool. All the dead leaves are in a single line in the center, they vibrate slightly with a touch of wind, but they stay clumped together in linear formation. On the lawn, there are a dozen people spread out in groups of two and three. They lounge and sun on top of colorful beach towels, their skin is golden in the light. The women wear designer white bikinis and large-lensed sunglasses. The men, with firm chests and hard stomachs, recline on their sides, turning themselves to the women they address. Twenty steps from the pool is a ramshackle house. The roof, made of wooden shingles that have turned black, is slightly concave, heavy with an accumulation of old rain water and rotten leaves. A wooden porch by the old front door has long ago been lost to termites, only a thick banister covered in small holes remains. There is a black hole in one of the walls to the right of the decimated porch, the hole is just large enough for a human head to peer through. Inside and directly behind the hole, is an old bathroom. The white tiles that cover the floor and the walls are dusty and covered in a fine black soot. There is a hose attached to the wall and a couple old metal knobs that used to serve as a shower. Beyond the bathroom, not separated by any wall, is an old kitchen. It too, is very dusty. The cabinets are off white, nearly brown. The fixtures on the drawers and the sink are covered in orange rust. There are white and blue tiles that decorate the countertop. Cobwebs hang in every corner. Pale light filters in through dirty windows which face the north, the sun beats through the weathered grime and settles into the room.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Quiet Field

The sky is a midnight blue verging on purple. Tiny stars sparkle dimly in the far distance, small and scattered glistening white points of light. In comparison, the moon is a swollen white orb dangling in the night sky. Against the darker hues, its whiteness is dazzling. Beneath its dewy gaze the grass is visible in hues of green verging on blue drenched in the nighttime atmosphere. The individual blades are thick, but soft and moist. A sweet odor comes up from of it, mingling with the mustier smell of the soil beneath its mane. The air is warm enough to accommodate bare skin while still managing to be refreshingly cool. Small creatures of the night move gently under the silver light. A rabbit with chestnut colored fur tests the night air with a small pink nose and slips in and out of its little hole, down the cool long tunnel and out upon the springy carpet of grass. Something flies silently over the landscape, a shadow that is visible for only a moment before blending into the dark skies.
The grasses ride a casually sloping hill to the crest and reach out to the east as far as the eye can see, disappearing beneath the curtain blanket of night. In the west, they are interrupted by a simple concrete porch and the dirty white stucco of a large Spanish style house. Its walls rise two stories. The first floor is void of windows, save for the sliding glass doors that open out onto the porch. The second is composed of a balcony lined with wooden rails painted to match the chocolate brown trim of the house, which looks almost black without the sun. The house is dark and silent, capped like a mushroom by a red tile roof whose color, like that of the grass, is altered by the evening’s disposition.
To the south, there is an out flow channel that extends like a concrete riverbed from the base of the mountains that loom behind the house. Empty of water, it stands as a barrier behind a fence of linked chain. The presence of moisture in the air comes without its complements. The east opens out upon itself as a grassy wilderness. In the distance, just barely visible, two barren trees stand guard and beyond them a dirt path leads to strange roads hidden from view by the border of a forest. The tall conifers seal the field, protecting it from the world beyond.
In the patch of land between the house and this forest wall, the grass is overcome by wild oats. Overgrown, they constitute a waist deep sea of crackly yellow stalks upon which praying mantis’ and crickets perch. The later chirp tenderly into the night, rubbing their little legs together with languor, taking breaks between sets. While the crickets play their lazy songs, the Mantis’ stalk their prey, smaller bugs that hide under the dainty sheaths of oats. Beneath this brittle canopy of wild grains, field mice scurry on the errands of busy little mammals, grateful to be out of the sight of the shadows which pass overhead, wings beating softly against the delicious evening air. Disappearing into the east, and running along the chain link flanked wash, stands a row of somber olive trees, as dutiful as Roman soldiers. Their leaves are dark and glossy. The unripe olives hanging among the branches are purple, although under the moonlight they are almost the color of coal.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Shopping Center

The streets are populated with shiny cars in the bright rainbow colors of fruit flavored candy. They are red and bright yellow and dark blue. Some are black or silver or gold. All glisten in the sun like brand new toys. The streets are a velvety gray, smooth with clean crisp painted lines. They are new fairways not yet tainted with tire marks and oil slicks. Circling and winding from one tall stop light to the next, they snake their way around the clean shopping centers and chain restaurants. The whole place is clean and bright. The walls of the box stores are anonymous and painted in warm cream colors, the store names are written in brand appropriate fonts across the front of the building faces in blue or white or yellow. They are un-chipped, void of any stray marks. So new that weather hasn’t been able to take its toll and vandals are still rubbing their eyes in astonishment, licking their lips and rubbing their palms together in anticipation of the day when security diminishes, but those days are yet to come. For now security carts patrol the parking lots like mother hens looking over nests of eggs. The planter boxes are filled with neatly trimmed shrubbery. Little trees that look like toothpicks with gumdrops set upon their points stand as proud as tin soldiers in the cement boxes outside of the glass store fronts. Grass rolls out in a fine green carpet alongside the walkways that lead to the smoky colored glass doors of the box restaurants. Lanky irises yawn up out of little islands set in the parking lots accompanied by skinny little maples that dream of making shade some day. Meanwhile, the shiny cars nose up to them, resting in tidy rows reserved by clean white lines. The traffic lights hang over the intersections that join dining establishments to malls to movie theaters like gawky tall young ladies. Their three bright eyes blink green to yellow to red under their steel black bonnets, holding lines of eager cars at bay with their crimson blush. Pedestrians, mostly teens, flow through the clearly delineated crosswalks guided by the electronic chirp chirp and flashing blue symbol that barely resembles them with their styled hair and skinny jeans, hoop earrings and music T-shirts, skateboards and chunky hand bags tucked under their arms. They mill about in front of the cinema gazing up at the white marquee board with its bold black letters announcing titles, show times, and ratings. More people file in and out of the box stores and main mall entrances, chatting on cell phones or rattling keys, or both at once, carrying boxes and bags, pushing carts with whinny toddlers strapped into the front like the dragon masts of Viking ships. Satisfied diners pick at their teeth with toothpicks and jingle change in their slack pockets in front of the restaurants. They hurry back to their shiny metal hosts to rouse them from their restful slumber, like parents rousing babies in a nursery to claim them and take them home. Only these babies roar and speed along over the posted limit. They are directed along those clean new stretches of road by the gangly traffic lights that hope to imitate rainbows with their perfectly arched spines. These babies puff out little invisible clouds of exhaust, filling the causeway with their chemical breath. They bleat like lambs when they fear they will bump noses with one another, or if the one in line ahead of the others is being too timid or law abiding, they may all join in a chorus of bleated complaints. With no lanes for bicycles or scooters, these must make their way amid the metal monster babes at their own risk, like puppies hopping to avoid their tails getting crushed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mural of Ships

The sun beats down on the roof of the car, not a cloud disrupts the clear line from the fiery orb to the thin metal plate. The heat is not blocked by the overhead covering, but is instead filtered and absorbed by the car, making both the interior and exterior painful to the touch. The hot red car is in the single lane, behind it five lanes of cars are attempting to merge into the single lane, but no one is moving. There is a young woman in the passenger seat, both her feet are in the driver’s foot area, ready to accelerate or brake when necessary. A twelve year old girl is sitting in the driver’s seat. She is slightly portly, wearing glasses that make her eyes look glassy and magnified and slightly disfigured. The fabric covered backseat is empty of possessions or people, it is slightly more shaded than the front and a degree cooler. Waves of exhaust shimmy from the asphalt and rise above the vibrating back fenders of the idling cars. The motors of many cars are purring, but the surroundings are silent. There are no impatient horns, no children on the side of the road selling candy or sliced fruit. Just the lanes of cars, waiting patiently to reach the unknown that lays ahead. There are buildings on either side of the car. Some are short and made of wood, others tall and made of metal and glass, some are covered in stucco, some have crumbling sides. There is not a space in between then, they all share a wall. No matter how high or how low they rise, the buildings on the left side of the car are covered in a continuous mural. The oversized picture, spanning miles and raised thirty feet off the ground, depicts large wooden ships. They ride the waves, one after the other, clustered like an army of marching soldiers. The ships are pointed in the same direction as the waiting cars. Some ships have pink hulls and magenta ropes hanging from their masts, an intangible wind catches sails of pink and white lace. There are other ships painted in blue and green, others are black. One ship after another sails, painted in solemn colors or bright as rainbows. The ships are crowded together, ocean waves poke out occasionally from the massed hulls, but mostly, the ocean blue is buried beneath their weight and color. On the right side of the car, the buildings remain in their unadorned gray state.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Santa Cruz Theatre

A small rectangular room is tucked just a couple feet from the sidewalk. The walkway in front of the room is covered in semi-shiny squares of tiles, marking the space as uniquely different from the dull pedestrian sidewalk a couple steps away. The lower part of the wall is decorated in the same shiny tiles, the upper walls of the room are made of Plexiglas, their opaqueness reveals the three uniformed attendants inside the space. They wear matching black pants and pristine white collared shirts. Above the shirt is a maroon polyester vest and at the collar line is a shiny black bowtie. They are sitting in a row a foot away from the glass wall, a small blue tiled ledge in front of them acts as a table. Each person sits on a black padded chair, spaced in precise intervals. A small bendable microphone on a metal chord is connected to the glass in front of them and the microphone extends from the clear wall to their mouths and stops just an inch away from their lips. Before each uniformed attendant is a large computer monitor and beyond the glass wall are three lines of people that extend to the pedestrian sidewalk.
On either side of the glass room are two double glass doors, on the left are the exit doors, on the right is the entrance. A uniformed gatekeeper stands behind a blue tiled podium just a foot behind the open door. He is a big man and wears the same outfit as the people in the glass room. Resting on the podium’s flat surface is a list of the nine cinemas and the times that each movie will be playing. Past the gatekeeper is a flat surface of shiny tiles that stretches four feet and then abruptly ends at the flight of stairs.
They are smooth, shiny stairs, made of the same tiles that decorate the outer plaza and the gatekeeper’s podium. There are at least 100 stairs and they reach from wall to wall, at least fifty feet across, and rise to the upper level. Directly in the middle, breaking the lines of the continuous smooth stairs is a softly humming escalator which has one rotating flight of metal stairs going up and another beside it, going down.
At the crest of the stairs is a smooth, wide open floor covered in maroon carpet. The soft flooring is accented in squiggly lines of royal blue and yellow and punctuated by fluffy kernels of dropped popcorn. The upper level is shaped like a square donut, the wide open area of the stairs resembling the square donut’s middle. Except for the opening to the escalators and stairs, a four foot Plexiglas wall rings the large open hole. There are four leather benches placed against the Plexiglas railing on each of its three sides and people sit there, popping kernels of popcorn into their mouths while staring at the advertisements that line the walls.
The overall lighting is dim, there are carefully placed spot lights around the periphery of the large room that shine on the cardboard cutouts of an upcoming feature, and there is some wandering light from the neon signs of the concession stand, but there are no large chandeliers or grand lamps, it is just slightly brighter than the subdued cinemas themselves.
At the far end of the wall and directly in front of the stairs, is the long concession stand. Neon lights advertise popcorn and soda. There are eight different lines with a couple of people in each, each line ends at a thick Formica countertop, a tan cash register and a uniformed teenager. The wall behind the attendants is covered in glass and in front of the wall are 3 Plexiglas cases of yellow popcorn, made brighter with the accented yellow spotlights that shine upon them. Soda machines spurt and wizz in carbonation and a hotdog wheel spins endlessly on the far right side of the counter.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Tour Ship

The ship is very large and composed of a string of connected cabins. There is little space out on deck, just a narrow walkway around the cabins. The plank boards are a dingy sandy blonde with stark white rails to keep them company and prevent passengers from falling overboard. The white paint is chipped and flaking off of the metal. Little wooden gangways lead from the dock onto the ship and crowds of people are streaming up and into the series of cabins.
Inside, a loud voice booms to the crowd already milling within the ships secretive insides. It is carried over a loud speaker and supplies concise little packets of trivial fact, directing the crowd’s attention to one or another aquarium, or that wall, or offering a historic or scientific anecdote.
The people are mostly older, anywhere from their late thirties to mid fifties. The men and women tend to be dressed alike, each wearing brightly colored polo shirts and khaki shorts or pleated slacks. The main difference is that the men are balding at the crest and their hair is white or gray while the women sport short haircuts full of unnatural curl and color. The women also wear bright lipstick and pearls or gold chains to add a touch of wasted femininity to their masculine couture. Both sexes tend to wear sun visors or other hats and carry little brochures and maps in their wrinkling, sun spotted hands.
They look where the voice tells them to look, nodding their heads and murmuring enthusiastically to one another. Many of them talk quite loudly, carrying on unrelated conversations about hotels, restaurants, or family members between moments of placing their attention where directed. Their feet shuffle along, carrying them where the voice suggests as if they were being moved along on a conveyor belt while their heads look at this and that and each other.
The various aquariums emit an eerie glow. The waving shimmer of light reflected off of the water dances upon the white walls of the cabin. There is otherwise nothing to be seen, except the occasional life saver mounted to a white wall. Nonetheless, the voice directs them to look, telling them what is in here and what is in there and where it came from and who discovered it and how long it lives and how it reproduces and who the captain of the ship was between the years of… and where it has traveled, and how it was named, and who has graced its decks with their shoe polish and so on. All the while, the crowd is responding to what they are told that they see. They snake their way from one room to the next to gaze into empty picture frames and exclaim things like,
“Oh Ralph, Nadia should have come! She would have liked this don’t you think? Maybe we can pick something up for her in the gift shop.”
Among the crowd, there are a few unruly children, also dressed in the classic polo shirts and khakis. They fight and play with their siblings and are ushered through the ship, one with the moving mass of humanity without taking notice of it or otherwise heeding their surroundings. There is an exit that allows a steady stream of homogeneous people to flow out of the string of cabins and across a second gangway. Just before crossing the threshold out of the cabin and onto the deck, they make their way through turn stiles with gleaming silver arms that let each patron push their tummy against a bar and get popped out on the deck as the following bar clicks into place behind them. They are especially merry as they emerge into the sunshine on the deck, smiling with satisfaction as the turnstiles count their passing.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Studio

In an old apartment building, eleven stories high, the clear canvases of windows are painted black by the night. Not a star shines through in the darkness, not one light from another building breaks through the thick color. The black windows are the only color on the white walls, walls which have taken a yellow glow from the single overhead lamp, illuminating every corner of the large square living room. The space has the empty power of a dance studio, bare, yet so empty as to be of complete service to anything that enters and moves within it. The room is devoid of clutter, no leather couches, no wooden end tables or entertainment stands littered with DVDs, just a dark wooden piano that leans against the wall closest to the front door. The floor of the room is wooden and old, the blond planks have streaks and scratches that have accumulated for decades, but in the yellow light, a sheen still exudes as though they were just installed.
At the far end of the room is a kitchen illuminated by bright white florescent bulbs, gleaming light dances off shiny tiles and chrome fixtures and creates an aura of sterilization. There is a hip-high wall that separates the kitchen from the living room and with the absence of a barrier, the bright white of the kitchen mixes with the subdued yellow glow from the living room. There is a woman in the kitchen who wears a black evening dress from the late 50s, her hair matches the dress in color and sophistication. She has a small cocktail glass in her hand and stares out expressionless into the living room.
In the bare room, a large circle of people sit on the floor, each one holding a musical instrument. At the far end of the circle, closest to the kitchen, a young woman sits on a plastic chair holding a violin. She plays a well practiced solo, her blond hair tilting to the side as she bends her chin towards the instrument. I am sitting cross-legged on the ground within the ring. On the floor in front of me is a guitar. The woman in the chair plays loudly and I bang on the body of the guitar in intervals. My two friends compose pieces of the human circle, they are separated from me by a stranger on my left. We all play with quiet anticipation, holding the moment that is building quietly and thoughtfully, like a well tended fire.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Stalker

Beneath a boundless blue sky, there is a small pond in the center of a large grassy field. The yellowed grass is the color and height of mature wheat on an open plane. The tops of the blades sway and ripple in the wind, moving in a thousand directions at once; their constant rustling creates a murmur that adds to the stillness of the land. There is a small tree by the pond, its trunk is thin and its branches are easily bendable in the wind, and although its still young, its canopy is broad enough to provide shade from the relentless sunlight. The pond is shallow and dark blue. At the bottom, the soft earth has turned to a silky soft mud that leaves trails of its black sediment across the feet that step on it. Small bits of algae dot the surface of the water and nearly translucent guppies skip along just below the surface. Small ripples from the wind scatter the waters towards the shoreline, a boundary which is lined with long thin reeds and tiny sprouts of green grass.
There are two sisters wading in the pond. One is tall and lean, her long blond hair blows like the tall grasses around her, her firm breasts are covered by a thin red tube top. Her sister is nearly identical, but just slightly smaller; shorter legs, smaller breasts, tinier waist. The girls are in the center of the pond, their long white legs bare except for their jeans shorts. The water line tickles the skin on their calves. They move their feet up and down like marching soldiers, squeezing the mud between their toes. They are silent, their attention engrossed in the dark water below. They stare at the water and at their buried feet.
There is a man in the distance, he is by the side of a two lane highway a short distance away from the grassy field. He sits upon the hood of his small, beat-up red car. He looks towards the girls in the field through squinted eyes. In his hand is a snapshot of the blond young woman. The highway is deserted, the sun sends heat waves cascading above the asphalt. The man is wearing long blue jeans and an old stained T-shirt. In the sun, the lines of his thirty year old face are just beginning to show. His eyes squint in the bright sunlight. He stares at the girls who are oblivious to his presence. The wind rattles through the air, like a muted siren among the grass.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A House and Three Couples

The house is tall and white with yawning arches and Spanish trim. With its triangular roof composed of orange tile it resembles an elegant giant milk carton. The driveway is long and steep, leading deep beyond the front porch. This porch is accessible where a concrete walk splits away from the main current of the drive forming little pools of its own with three stairs of the same followed by another open expanse of concrete that flows under the two grand archways and meets, at last, with the main stair. There are fifteen of these that lead up to the front door, each one carpeted in sparkling green artificial grass. It glitters magically, winking back at the sparkle emitted by mounds of petite glistening ice plant in the front yard. The tiny blossoms of violet beam their radiance back up to the sun as if they were smaller solar entities themselves, regal lords subject only to that greater more effervescent King. The door itself is of a solid wood adorned with beautiful carved panels that display the shapes of large four petaled flowers and broad jagged edged leaves.
The windows of the house are closed tight, the blinds looking blindly outward like eyes without pupils, sealed from behind by insulated curtains. Within the house all is dark. The floor is composed of many polished honey blond wood panels. In the darkness the color is lost, but the sheen is apparent so that it seems almost like the face of a mirror but less lustrous. To the left of the front entry way, a carpeted hallway leads to the three bedrooms and a bathroom that waits at the very end of its track. The thermostat, a little square box with a metallic surface, juts from the wall of the hallway, opposite of a closet meant to accept the hats, coats and shoes of those entering the abode. To the right rests the living room hidden behind those tightly closed front windows. Beyond it, separated only by further yawning arches, waits a dinning room with sliding glass doors that open onto a patio as well as a tiny kitchen that occupies the least space of all these three grand rooms, nestled in the corner as an afterthought. Its floor is covered with yellow laminate designed to look like sunny Spanish tiles. There are more windows in the wall behind the dining table but they too are hermetically sealed, complete with blinds and long drapes whose color is that of rusty anchors. The living room and the dining room share the same wood flooring, but in the living room, an enormous Persian rug featuring predominately the colors of deep red and gold, covers most of the surface. There is a clock hung on the little bit of wall between the arches that separate the two rooms. It reads 6 o’clock. There is also a television set on an imposing entertainment center that stands beside the stone fireplace at the end of the rectangular space. It casts the only illumination in ghostly electric blue hues that spill so far out as to dance upon the dark surface of the wood floor before the front entrance.
Tucked into a makeshift bed of sleeping bags and pillows, a young couple lies sleeping oblivious to the images flashing before them. The woman’s hair is long and blond. The man’s hair is similarly toned and while it is shorter than hers, his is also long. On his neck there is a tattoo of a blue rose. Slightly behind them, closer to the front entrance, there are two rust colored arm chairs in which two elderly people sit in their pajamas and robes: an old woman with hair like the younger woman upon the floor but streaked with gray and an old man with short but unruly hair the color of brushed steel. These two watch the images flashing upon the screen with mute fascination. The scene is unfolding in a bedroom amid strewn bed clothes and candlelight, where a woman in a satin negligee is making love to a partner whose face is veiled by the shadows.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Hidden Room

The exterior of the imposing apartment building looks just like an oversized cinder block. It is large and sterile and bleak, its façade devoid of any feature or embellishment. It is clean and gray and practical, a building to live in, nothing more. No craftsmanship to admire, nothing added besides the necessities; the angles of the apartment building are sharp and hard, 90 degrees protrude with the practicality of an iron fist. It’s bare bones architecture, humorless and without emotion. It simply is a block, a square implanted within the soil and erected on the stretch of cold land without nostalgia or sentimentality. On each of the seven floors, there are simple square windows every 10 feet.
On ground level, there is a single metal door that leads in and out…either outside to the silent streets of a gray midmorning, or inside, in to the dark, cold palace of practicality.
Within the building is the hidden unpractical, the one great flourish of the architect who screamed silently into his plans and burst forth with a glimmer of possibility. It is the hidden room, the room of quiet existence, masked from observation on the ground floor by a wall that hides its entrance. Behind the thin façade of cinderblock is a large, two level room built halfway above the earth and partly within the cold soil. Spanning the entire length of the room, from end to end, is a narrow flight of stairs made from a shiny blend of cement and crushed rock. Upstairs, (the level above ground) is a single twin sized bed and a red velvet loveseat with curved wooden arm rests beside it. Twenty feet from the bed is a single wooden desk with a single wooden straight backed chair pushed into it. Upon the desk is a wrought iron lamp without a lampshade or light bulb and a single piece of clean white paper and a pencil laying beside it.
Downstairs, the part of the room submerged within the earth, there are six wooden dressers filled with clothes clustered in the center of the room. Within the dressers are men’s slacks and button up black shirts, there are clothes for little girls, pink party dresses and small white socks. There is a sequined evening gown and a stained apron and an entire drawer of silk lingerie and lacy brassieres. There is no division or organization within the drawers or dressers between sex or age, all the clothes are mixed up and wrinkled…socks next to shirts next to fur coats. Scattered next to the dressers and piled in heaps upon the cement floor are more clothes. Polo shirts and Batman underpants and silk pajamas and cotton T-shirts. All the clothes are clean, but wrinkled. On the second floor of the room (the ground floor of the apartment building), there are two windows that open directly to the gray sidewalk above.
A single daisy pokes its yellow from the space in between two large slabs of cement, the flower stands like a survivor of color in the square frame of the window. The light in the room comes solely from the two windows which casts the space in a bluish hue that is accentuated by the cement flooring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wait and Rest Room

Plush maroon carpeting spreads over the floors like the spilled and drying blood of some regal jungle animal. Neither too red nor to brown, its shade is deep and warm, and creates the illusion that one might be standing within the soft heart of an enormous elephant. The walls are paneled with sheesham veneer, a rich chocolate brown wood swirled with even darker lines. They disappear into anonymity behind the array of fine art hung over their deep complexion like multicolored veils over the faces of exotic but somber women. Many of the frames are gilded with 24 karat gold.
The art itself is so exquisite in detail as to appear more vivid than life. Creamy skinned women stand with blue skinned lovers at the mouth of roaring seas or lay in the arms of furry white beasts playing wind instruments upon stony cliffs or dance in groups upon mossy embankments overlooking misty water falls. They seem as if they might step out of the frames at any moment, or as if perhaps theirs is the real world and the room with maroon carpet is only a crude painting. Antique lamps of fine polished brass, some adorned with tiffany lampshades and dripping with glittering lead crystals emit a warm glow. Scattered throughout the room, they stand upon sleek end tables fashioned of polished dark cherry. These rest near couches, divans, and love seats like faithful dogs at the feet of their masters.
The couches themselves are upholstered in darkest brown suede and some in pomegranate hued velvet adorned with gold embellishments in the baroque style. Many of these are planted so that their occupants might face each other and engage in intimate conversations. All are equipped to function as toilets as well as seats. The soft sued or velvet cushions need only be lifted to reveal the gleaming white porcelain of a toilet seat and bowl. Dainty little handles for flushing rest nestled among the at the back. Some have been neatly worked into the baroque embellishments. The din of idle chat fills the room like the bubbling of hot soup in a black kettle. The mob of individuals crowd together on the love seats, women sitting in men's laps and youths with tousled hair perched upon the arms of the couches. The scent of perfume mingles with that of after shave and the baser smell of hot human breath and urine. The laughter of the women rings out shriller than the baritone he-haws of the men. The smoke of a cigarette drifts along the ceiling, among the crystals of a chandelier and on past the mist seas of a painting. Coughing and nose blowing accent the general hum of unending conversation.
The men wear tuxedos, many have taken off the jackets and have loosen the bow ties and dab at their perspiring brows with embroidered handkerchiefs. The women don tight fitting evening gowns to reveal their bosoms and wear glistening earrings, and pearl necklaces. They grip satin and bejeweled clutches in their delicate and neatly manicured hands. A few fan themselves, the spaghetti straps of their skimpy gowns hanging off of their freckled shoulders. One woman in a clinging blue dress is using one of the toilets while the others around her continue to talk. Perched as she is, she endeavors to keep herself covered with the skirt of the gown, but it is too form fitting to accommodate her much, and her pale thighs and dark curly pubic hairs are apparent to all, while she wriggles like pate trying to go back into its shorn wrapper.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Casino

Brick-like pieces of luggage roll smoothly over the marble flooring of the lobby. A low rumbling echoes dimly against the walls as the plastic wheels roll over tiny lines of grout where each slab of marble comes together to meet another. There is a steady stream of people in the lobby. Couples walk in through the doors and towards the registration desk, men in their fifties walk quickly from the elevators towards the revolving doors that lead to the waiting taxis. A gray haired man in a long black coat reads the newspaper in one of the lobby’s blue upholstered armchairs, women in high heels click and clack on the hard floor. Beyond the marble boundary of the lobby, the green carpet begins. Down four steps and past two gold handrails is the large open casino. A variety of sounds comes from the dozen rows of slot machines on the right of the room. Their lights blink and flash, white, orange, and red. A group of large, white haired ladies in matching kacki pants and white collared shirts sit in a line on the padded stools of the slot machines. They hold small plastic cups, their hands reach in, almost in unison, grabbing quarter after quarter and feeding it into the machine. The casino is covered in a carpet of green that is accented by a busy pattern of yellow lines and blue dots, but the chaos of the pattern is held together by the dark green background of the thin carpet. It is a well worn carpet, made even thinner by the constant high heels of the waitresses in short black skirts that hardly cover their rear and the shined black shoes of the blackjack dealers that stand stoically upon it. A mirror covers the wall at the far end of the room. The mirror and the track lighting above reflects the thousands of bottles that sit on clear shelves just an inch from the mirror. Each bottle holds a varying shade of yellow tequila and each bottle is a different color, red, blue, buffed white glass. Waitresses swarm around the bar, behind it, in front of it…the women in tightly fitting nylons and black-strapped high heels hold small circular trays. Some hold trays with small glasses filled to the brim in clear alcohol, some hold trays that only have the melted remains of ice cubes and small slices of limes and crumpled napkins. Mounted on the wall, just perpendicular to the mirror, is a flat screen TV. A football game is on the screen, the images flash and change every second, but the sounds are muted and the importance of the game is lost amidst the sounds of slot machines and dealers and waitresses taking orders and the jingling of a dozen quarters spilling into plastic cups. A cluster of 6 blackjack tables are positioned close to the bar. The oak tables are taller than average and around it are extra tall metal stools with padded leather seat cushions. Three people sit at the table, the dealer stands like an idol before them, holding the cards that will determine their future. A blond woman in her thirties holds four cards in her hand. She looks at them with boredom etched along the sides of her red-painted mouth. She looks at the cards, she looks at the dealer, she takes a sip of her drink. All along the sides of the casino are metal bleachers like the kind found in a sports stadium, only despite their size, there are only five rows. They are dotted with the young children of gamblers, left to anxiously observe the proceedings as powerless spectators.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shoe Shine Station

The foyer of the hotel is large and airy. There is the warm diffused lighting of opulence and old money. The ceiling above the front desk is adorned with a fresco in muted colors and it towers two stories above the few people in the lobby below. The floor is made of smooth gray marble, it shines in the warmth of the lighting and echoes as women in high heel shoes take small dainty steps across its surface. In the center of the foyer, an overabundant bouquet of rainbow colored flowers soak up water in a glass vase upon a circular wooden table.
Off to the side of the lobby, in the corner and somewhat hidden by the diffused lighting and shadows is a shoe shining station. There are no walls separating it from the larger lobby, but there are some green trees in large blue glazed pots that are lined up in a row parallel to the beige wall of the hotel. The trees create a small living divide from the main foyer and also provide a hint of privacy. On one side of the small space is a cluster of fabric covered chairs, the kind popular in a doctor’s office. No one fills the seats. No one flips through the magazines that lay on the end table. The station is empty and quiet. The hunter’s green carpet that covers the small space is clean and the parallel lines of a vacuum cleaner are still visible across its uniform surface. In the center of the square shoe shining area is a pit, a large hallowed out space in the smooth shape of a bowl. The edges slope down gently from the edges of the carpet. The inner surface of the bowl matches the color of the hotel wall in the same beige shade. The sculpted hole has light streaks of black and brown, remains from the many shoes that have been shined upon its surface. Standing at full attention just a centimeter from the wall, is a woman wearing a gleaming white shirt covered in a crisp black vest and ironed black pants. She looks like a blackjack dealer. She is waiting, her hands are clasped together behind her back, there is no smile on her face, she stares ahead calm and serene, waiting for the next customer to sign in on the small registration sheet and step into the hallowed pit for a thorough shining. Another woman stands a couple feet away from the shoe shiner, also wearing the same black and white uniform. Neither of them talk, they stare straight ahead, their legs slightly apart, their light brown skin glowing softly in the diffused light .