Friday, December 31, 2010

It's my birthday and I'll blog about myself if I want to

It’s nearing midnight and I am about to unceremoniously take my first step into my early thirties. Thirty-one to be exact.

People across the world have been cheering the new year for most of the day, putting another year behind them, resolving to change, to begin anew, to start afresh, to be young again. But I will have aged. Because I was born then, 31 years before, a full day of labor for my young mother, a full day of agony for my sense of shelter.

It is easy to keep track of my age though. How old was I in 1985? Five. The whole year. How old will I be in 2099, the year my favorite Spiderman, Miguel O’Hara, paradoxically “lived”? One hundred and nineteen. The whole year. I attribute my smokin’ decent memory to my birthday as well. Who did I vote for in the mock presidential election of 1988? Michael Dukakis. I liked his eyebrows. I was eight, seven for half the school year. What year did I notice my first armpit hair? 1990. I was 10. Ask my mother. She’ll tell you all about it, wrong, of course, and with embellished humiliation. When did the space shuttle Challenger blow up? Don’t know exactly but I remember the day. I was riding a yellow bus to Pillow Elementary School. Kindergarten. So I know it was between 1985 and 1986. The flag was half staffed enough for me to recognize it as strange so I’m going to say 1986. Haley’s Comet strolled by that year too. I remember it was ’86 because an Australian classmate named Zena had returned to the Outback and sent the class a picture of her awesome vantage. Out of jealousy, I teased her and Tyler Vandercolt for winning the privilege of sleeping in the classroom teepee together during naptime. She told me I wasn’t very nice. It still stings. In preschool, I remember getting into a fight with another boy over a police hat during play time. Totally kicked his ass. Some snotty blonde girl tried to kiss me all year during story time and a girl named Bridgette broke my heart by admitting that she wanted to marry some other asshole four year old over me. The year was 1984.* In ’83, I was sitting on my father’s shoulders, picking plantains to “surprise” my mother. That same year I repeatedly played doctor with my older sister’s friend from next door. Hot. I was three. 1982 imprinted still images in my head: a skateboard that I wasn’t allowed to stand on; a tennis racket in its wooden frame; Tom & Jerry wallpaper; a crying baby sister whom I was mean to until she was old enough to start hitting me back. In’79, the war half of me was tightly bundled in a single sperm within my father’s scrotum. The love side of me was waiting comfortably in parts of my mother that I will not mention here. I don’t remember any of that though. New Year’s wasn’t my birthday yet.

Fast forward 31 years later, and I’m thinking of people who have absolutely no memory of me and moments that are remembered by no one but me. It was nice reflecting though. Happy New Year.

Already retaining information

*
Bobby: “What are you doing?”
Carlos: “Writing a blog about myself.”
Bobby: “Am I in it?”
Carlos: “I thought I’d mention you in 1984 but I didn’t have the space.”
Bobby: “Whatever. You should put a little asterisk by 1984 and mention me.”

In 1984 I smashed my arm through the window of my home while mimicking TV’s hit program The Incredible Hulk. As I stood in my living room screaming at the sight of blood spraying from my right arm, my current roommate, Bobbles Almond, centered his face in the frame of the shattered window. He stood in the bushes outside and between his disproportionately large ears and cheeks, his eyes were scared. They were scared because a boy, 9 months Bobby’s elder, a boy that Bobby held and still holds as the pinnacle of manliness could bleed like any other mortal. It was an important year for young Bobby, 1984. I was four. The whole year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Killing time before killing time

A street car rumbles behind me. Its ghost glides by as a reflection across my computer screen and my coffee trembles in its glass. A disruptively beautiful woman sits at a table beside me. She was making love eyes at me until my male roommate walked into the coffee shop on his way to work and, with a saboteur’s grin, made suggestively homosexual remarks about my day’s activities.

It’s better that way. I can focus on writing. Oh yeah, and job hunting.

Horrific money woes aside, being unemployed in San Francisco is pretty cool. At some point, I’m going to walk from east to west across the peninsula or whatever. Seven miles, so I’m told, so I tell you, making it truth. I’ve even grown accustomed to sleeping like murder on a hardwood floor, face down and calamitous. It’s quite comfortable, in fact. I toss and turn a lot but no more than I would on a king bed and my back feels great. I’ve never had back problems but apparently there was something out of order ‘cause I don’t need to arch out my slouch so much anymore and as testament, every morning I jump kick out of my nest in order to demonstrate my newfound dexterity to the phantoms of this Victorian place. But yeah, I need a bed, I guess. I really don’t want one. I’m only getting one because of you people and your judgmental nostrils and stinking expectations. Maybe I’ll make a tatami bed. Yeah. That’d be just fine.

What else.

It’s cold here. It’s cold and the hills make me want to puke but not for any aesthetic reason; it’s because the valves of my heart are actually miniature vaginas that constrict and flatulate when the rest of me is uncomfortable. They haven’t acclimated to the suddenly wide corridors of blood that the vertical hills of San Francisco have required of my arteries either and on more than one occasion, I’ve felt compelled to lay down and die at the top of a mountainous hill with the city landscape a beautiful death shroud. That’s not to suggest that vaginas should in any way be associated with weakness. Make no mistake: they’re disproportionately stronger then their counterparts. They’re so powerful in fact that I’ve done many . . . questionable things for them. I like vaginas and not even as friends. I love them. Whatever. All I’m saying is that a man shouldn’t have vaginas in his heart when he’s accidentally found himself on Taylor Street because salt-dried shrimp sounded like a really tasty additive to pasta and the only place he knew to get some was at a fly infested market in Chinatown. Happy Holidays.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Austin is dead to me.

So, I’ve moved to San Francisco and before you ask, no, I don’t have a job ready to scoop me up. Also, don’t suggest your San Franciscan friends to me unless they’re busty sex maniacs who think all Texans are lonely cowboys that have trouble expressing their emotions. I could somehow use that to my diabolical advantage.

Anyway, I’ve moved to San Francisco. Austin’s a cool scene but I’ve been meaning to explore the radically left sensibilities that have consumed a substantial amount of my political brain, and what better place to do so than the prototypical American city of liberal discontent?* I would have gone East Coast with equal speed and enthusiasm but the west presented itself to me and I’ve wanted to poke around out here for a solid decade.

If you’re a friend and didn’t know I was ditching town, I apologize, but rest assured that you are in the majority. Like most other things that shine a scrutinizing and embarrassing spotlight on my activity, I kept my plans a loosely controlled secret. Have you ever left your state? A lot of people you never socially interact with suddenly want to get to know you better. And vice versa. For all my grumpy introversion, I found myself prematurely missing people I hadn’t seen in years.

Oh well.

I’ll see them again. I still have to go back and pick up my machete, hunting bow, knives, and my pistolas for when the global economy collapses and it’s every man for himself. What, did you think just because I’ve drastically changed locations that I’m suddenly cured of my paranoid malcontent? Don’t be an asshole.

The Golden Gate Bridge (post Apocalypse)

*My lovingly conservative beau-père, Ronaldo, assured me that I will return to Austin a gay communist, a sentiment that represents, in full, my overwhelming desire to leave Texas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Effective immediately

You know what’s easier than working on an expansive literary project? Writing a blog. It’s true. I’ll usually plant myself before my antiquated laptop, crack my knuckles, and stare dumbly at the words that stumped me the previous day. Sips of hot coffee, sips of warm coffee, sips of cold coffee and I’ve given up trying to articulate the most cerebral portion of my writing scheme for the leisurely semblance of community on Facebook or the blogosphere or quite simply, my email account.

So, I am hereby suspending all frivolous online activity. Frivolous because I’m not deleting any accounts; instead, I’ll be limiting my Internet prowling to basic communication, research, and circus pornography. My diminutive attention span and sense of accomplishment are howling for it, simultaneously and in both ears, and quite frankly, I’m sick of the bitching. So my dear enablers, you’ll hear from me again when I’ve actually something to say. If you can hold your breath until mid December, that’d be great.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cyclists, die.

Sunday. High noon. I was nipping a no cream/no sugar sarsaparilla at a convenient saloon when a hot breeze whistled in and I heard the clinking step of another rider in town. Music seemed to stop and tired men raised their tired gaze to the imposingly large person darkening the doorway. A depthless shadow striped my eyes, and its darkness afforded me the chance to size up the stranger obstructing the exit with his audacious mass. He was a giant. Wide-shouldered and unusually muscular. Tan. Square jawed. He was a gallant everyman, a John Wayne, a Man With No Name. He looked my direction and in the glare of his greater masculinity, I flinched and turned away. Men across the place did the same.

The rider stepped into the Starbucks and what I had taken for high plains drifting spurs became the staccatoed pitter-patter of dainty bicycle shoes. He shuffled past my table with the Geisha stride of a brawny man unaccustomed to having a sharp bicycle saddle wedged into the crack of his ass. He scanned the café behind the flare of his cyclist-trending sunglasses while the science in his colorful neck-to-mid-thigh leotard muted his swooshing legs as soundlessly as a pirouetting Russian. The bulbous mass of aerodynamic Styrofoam strapped atop his big head, unjoggleable. I held my cup of coffee suspended before my confounded expression, registering this individual as a new genre of people to regard as idiots.

Christ, I hope Lance Armstrong gets nailed for doping. He was back in the hot seat a few months, wasn’t he? That guy’s singlehandedly created this ridiculous bicycle culture here in Austin that, among a scrolling list of things, irritates me. Armstrong has turned otherwise rugged men into painted clowns that shrimps like me feel proprietorship in ridiculing. All because he only has one testicle. A lot of men only have one ball, Lance, and dressing your minions like peacocks isn’t just emasculating them, it’s exposing the insecurity in your abusive power and not growing your junk back. Finding drugs in Armstrong’s piss would dislodge a pellet of nurtured superiority from Austin’s megalobutthole, and because I’m malicious at heart, I’d adore the flailing identity crisis that would likely ensue. Bicycles have infiltrated the scenesters here too, but they’ve managed to own their style and when Lance Armstrong inevitably falls from stardom, they’ll be able to continue their existence without the stinking smear of a messiah’s disgrace.

I had earbuds lodged into my head so I couldn’t hear what our tall drink of electrolytes was ordering but I’d bet foldin’ money it had the words soy, espresso, latte, and cinnamon and/or vanilla in it. What an asshole.

I like bicycles. Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather ride one than drive a car but the gear? The clothes with the names of sponsors who aren’t really sponsors of anything more than their own opportunism? Man that’s unoriginal.

Addendum: After rereading this post, I’ve come to the biting realization that I’m a judgmental prick. But, I’m okay with that. At least I’m self aware enough to turn the magnifying glass on my own deficiencies for condemnation or celebration. Celebration, in this case.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wishing upon a star for Sarah Palin to be mauled by a mama grizzly on her new reality TV show

What I should do is ignore this, for my peace of mind, for my sense of ethical superiority, but I can’t help it. I love to hate Sarah Palin, so when I came across Nancy Franklin’s article in The New Yorker, deriding Palin’s new reality TV show, I, of course, read the whole thing. And though acknowledging the show and even spending the time to blog about a biased review I read only perpetuates Palin’s horrible fame, Franklin’s article helped me understand exactly what irritates me most about that wily snake-woman and her frightening potential to run the United States:

“When it comes to Palin specifically, there is the fundamental problem that some of us don’t want to see or hear any more of her than we have to. And there are those whose objections have a physiological basis as well as an ideological one: the pitch and timbre of her voice, the rhythms of her speech, her syntax, and the way she coats acid and incoherence with cheery musical inflections join together in a sickening synergy that distresses the listener, triggering a fight-or-flight reaction.”

I hope this assessment was a clarifying for you as it was for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The morning after

Another election cycle, another slew of heads piked at the gates of the new conquerors. That’s fine. People don’t get off their couches until they’re pissed or until evil Sith lords (e.g., multibillionaires Rupert Murdoch and David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries) compel them with the money-mind tricks of their staggering networks and resources. I get it. Frankly, I’m surprised the Republicans didn’t take both houses. That sleazy maniac, Sharron Angle, came uncomfortably close to usurping her incumbent opponent, Sleazy Reid, and that articulate douchebag, Marco Rubio, actually won in Florida. Watch your vaginas ladies.

Come to think of it, I don’t recall there ever having been so many politicians and political hopefuls that I’ve wanted to choke unconscious. That being said, I’ll semi-close with a friend’s quote of a quote on Facebook:

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical” – David Foster Wallace

I unfortunately agree with Wallace because despite my disdain for. . .pretty much everything, the “sleeping giant” strength of the voting American majority, the 44 million living in poverty, has the power to reshape the country into something that doesn’t devastate other nations or its own people for the love of money.

Perhaps that’s just my last shred of naivety but I’ll take it. Wallace, of course, struggled with depression and eventually committed suicide, a sad end to such an insightful man.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween is for the macabre


Friday, October 29: I finally bandaged a gash on my index finger but only because it appeared to be festering and I didn’t want students to focus on an oozing open sore over their troublesome grammatical errors. I later exed over and reopened the original wound while cutting a stale piece of sourdough bread and no, not with the knife. Apparently old food takes on a dull edge that hurts, for lack of a better word, like a motherfucker.

Saturday, October 30: South Mo-Pac and 183, two major traffic arteries, were closed early Saturday morning leaving drivers to scatter like cockroaches into the surrounding neighborhoods for alternate routes. Why? Because on an overpass high above the two highways’ intersection a man was burning to death in his flipped over gasoline tanker. The 7AM atmosphere confined the thick black smoke into a hazy stripe across the horizon and at the mouth of this colorless rainbow, fire gushed like an inverted waterfall into the sky, its moist spray, a smoky perversion. I watched the flames with fearful wonderment as I slowly steered my car among the living. If I’m to reach the precipice of death before humanity realizes and shares immortality, I hope, hope, hope my fall will be as disruptive and commanding as the one I witnessed this weekend.

Sunday, October 31: Shoes are back in my footwear rotation and I’ve taken to grooming the various holes in my face with fine instruments because my rancid finger injury and likely scar are only complementing my knobby toes and the more and more frequent hair trolling out of my ears. I’ve become Dorian Grey but my portrait is gnarling in real-time. . .and I’m not an asshole. The bumpy toes are a direct response to the fat thongs of my Croc sandals, apparel that I’ve lazily worn instead of real shoes for the past 8 months, but my ear coiffure is explicable only within margins of our times, a period I’ve affectionately titled “The Deformative Years.”

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In defense of Jackass 3D

I watched Jackass 3D the other day and I make no apologies. Something about dumb humor appeals to my humanity and I thoroughly enjoyed the agony and revulsion the movie inspired. It was funny.

A couple of years ago, I read that one of the oldest jokes ever recorded dealt with farts: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap.” I guess you had to be there, but it dates back 4000 years to Sumer, the cradle of human civilization, so maybe I just have my finger on the pulse of mankind and you’re the asshole.

My only criticism of Jackass 3D is that it didn’t really need to be in 3D. Perhaps that was too sophisticated for me. I only appreciated the feature when Chris Pontius stringed a remote controlled helicopter to his full-frontal man parts, and via 3D technology, flew it out to interact with millions of people across the planet. That was somehow transcendental for me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Belated ACL post

I've been meaning to write about the ACL Festival last weekend and since I’m experiencing a complete writer’s block with another project, here we go.

ACL reflections (I spent a long time linking these songs so listen to them or I will wish ill upon you):

Friday.
1) I missed The Mountain Goats because I didn’t get out of work early enough.
2) The Black Keys, who are awesome, were not awesome live.
3) A combination of the mild heat and the 16OZ can of Austin’s own Green Leaf tea sloshing around in my stomach made me sick and I left after two hours so I wouldn’t be someone’s memory of a vomiting festival goer.

Saturday.
1) I arrived in time for Pete Yorn, who was amazingly unexceptional, so I cut his crowded set in half and visited Bear in Heaven. They were a band to see, and I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time at Yorn’s show. Pete Yorn is the Dane Cook of music and if you know Pete Yorn and Dane Cook but still don’t know what I’m talking about, I would like for you to identify yourself. But Bear in Heaven. Underappreciated. Awesome.
2) The Dough Rollers held my attention after The Gaslight Anthem could not. The Dough Rollers are a foot-stomping, old-timey, blues-roaring duo. Quite impressive. I found out the next day that the lead singer is none other than Harrison “Han Solo” Ford’s son.
3) After a few false starts, I settled at a three-drum set group called Beats Antique. Very talented, these kids. They even gimmicked a belly dancer for some of their songs. On top of her being brow-perspiringly desirable, her moves were original and not primarily, or secondarily for that matter, belly dancing. There was mechanical rigidity to her movement that I don’t know how to categorize. Anyway, I love her.
4) While tip-toeing over crossed legs and intimately brushing past sweaty men and women in bikinis, a man called out, “Hey, Crabby!” Naturally, I turned. He was an old man in a collapsible chair beside an equally old woman. “You can’t walk past here unless you have a smile on your face.” I laughed and continued on. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t bothered by anything, in fact. I just scowl.
5) I lost a solid hour catching up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while but ended up at LCD Sound System. For a bunch of middle aged unsexy musicians, they had a packed . . . field and their show was engaging and fun. I was, of course, drunk by then so I’m perhaps not the most reliable source.
6) Muse. Ah Muse, how I don’t understand your appeal. They were the Saturday headliner and people were going completely ape shit over them. They put on an aesthetically pleasing performance, but I’m apparently the only person in Austin who thinks their music is boring and unoriginal.

Sunday.
1) The Constellations were my Sunday highlight. I chanced upon them and took them first to be clowns by their ridiculous hip. But if they must be clowns, let them be clowns of cool. The link is the best sound I could find but trust me when I say that the two women are stifled on record 'cause live, they held the band together.
2) Sunburns. Sore neck. Aching back. Dusty feet. $7 beer. $5 Torchy’s taco.
3) Let me first say, lastly, that I love The Flaming Lips. I love The Flaming Lips. But they spent more time on their presentation than did playing music. Yeah, if you’re a rock star, you can make your audience meow like a cat but that doesn’t make it right. The looping video of a nude woman dancing was, perversion aside, very interesting and kept the slow moments dynamic, but I found The Lips’ reluctance to perform to be arrogant. They redeemed themselves by ending the show with one of my favorite songs ever written, “Do You Realize??” and thus concluding my time at ACL, for I couldn’t think of anything more exhausting than staying for two hours of soft rocking Eagles.
3.1) Flat tire upon returning to my car. Air compressor. A rush home.
3.2) I witness a three-car collision and heroically stop to check on everyone. Flashing police and ambulances. People shouting in Vietnamese. Cops shouting in English. I go home and sleep. Strange and unusual weekend.

End ACL.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Collapse, watch it.

This post is dedicated to Chindiana Trails for expressing disapproval toward my recent optimistically-toned writings.

Last week, I watched an interview/documentary called Collapse and have been reflecting over it ever since. Unlike so many well-watched deliveries in the past, the Netflix envelope containing the DVD was crisp and new. And as evidence to its limited exposure, the disc had been sitting unwatched in front of my TV for weeks. You see, I’ve been avoiding local and national news lately because I actually feel my face swell with anger and frustration and it’s quite the uncomfortable bloat. As a simple solution, I’ve taken the advice I received from a ride to Big Bend: “Man, change the channel.” And I have, and I feel better. Collapse arrived from my queue before I could bump it and I couldn’t bring myself to send it back without watching it, so I did.

The documentary is about the total collapse of civilization as we know it with the running out of oil as the single catalyst. The man behind the theory is a guy named Michael Ruppert. I spent half the movie dismissing him as an arrogant crazy person and the other half struggling to counter his position. Essentially, oil is in everything: plastics, paint, even food. It is responsible for generating energy for our entire way of life and we are unarguably running out of it. The guy’s evenly apocalyptic the entire interview, which can be a little tiring but he seems to transcend blue, red, even green politics, and I appreciate his dumping politicians into the same bastard theater.

Anyway, if you don’t watch it, at least check out the 2-minute trailer. I promise your face won’t swell with anger or frustration. . .or don’t watch it, but when the shit hits the fan, don’t bother trying to join the marauding clan I will have assembled because we will eat you. Better, Mr. Trails?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A window into my developing brain

I was digging through some boxes in an obsessed blitz to get rid of all the crap I’ve accumulated over the years when I came across a trove of old drawing pads. I’ll share some of their contents without further ado, for they represent a nostalgic progression of my youthful evolution. Click for a close up.

This is Whirlwind. I created him when I was 13 years old. My reflexive analysis is that he represents apparently what I wanted at 13: power, muscles, and sharp fingernails. He’s also a clear rip off of an Image Comics character that I was reading at the time.
Fast forward later that year, and you’ll find my aspirations on steroids. (Yes, that is a bloody heart in his hand) I can’t remember if I named him or not, so I’ll just call him “Asshole” for now.
Four years later, I had evidently not grown.
By 18, I had left superheroes and monsters behind for my cult leader Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool . . .
 . . . and the talentless goddess Shirley Manson of the band ironically called Garbage.
This is my father. We bore a striking resemblance when we were 19.
At 22, I took my first and last art class. It was okay, I guess. I learned a couple cool techniques, like covering paper with charcoal and drawing with an eraser. Never thought of that before.
This last one was drawn with a stump of charcoal. I had never sketched anything without using a single line before. Never thought of that before either.

I'm sure you noticed they're all in pencil or charcoal. I don't remember owning a single set of Crayons as a kid and as a result, I never learned to use color. I also wanted to learn the piano but that was even more expensive than Crayons. Goddamned limiting properties of money. Anyway, I've tried paints, and color pencils, and Crayons. Still working on those skills. I'm sure you also noticed that most of them are unfinished. I can't explain that one, but to this day, I still leave a lot of my artwork unfinished. It's a special occasion when I'm finished and completely satisfied with one.

I have stacks of other drawings and even some from when I was in elementary school but I can’t find them. Those are cool. It’s interesting to see how your mind interpreted your environment when you were still half-wild and without concern. Oh, Life, how you’ve changed us all.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Provisional words to distract you from the fact that I have absolutely nothing to say OR Favicons.

Ah, satisfaction. I finally figured out how to put my goddamned pig face into my URL. Notice how I referred to the thumbnail as a “goddamned pig face” and not the common name which it goes by? YOU figure it out, jerks. It’s not like it’s hard. I’m just a moron. In fact, there are much smarter people than me who actually write moron interface so dopes like me can scratch their monkey heads until a eureka moment dawns over their little horizons and they brag-blog about it. BOO-yakasha!
   
In other news, I’m still trying to update my “Testimonials” page every Wednesday and I’m having a great deal of personal amusement in doing so. I’d like to thank, among others, Rachel Maddow, Kim Jong-Il, Mel Gibson, Rod Blagojevich, and the reanimated corpse of Ronald Reagan for their kind words. That being said, I have no idea if anyone’s reading their reviews and there’s nothing sadder than a man gut laughing at his own humor, alone on a Saturday night. I don’t quite know how to remedy that but I am now taking creative suggestions.

Until I think of something better,

Carlos

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The nature of my nature

Attention people. I am hereby announcing a new interest: sailing. See, since I’ve proven unsuccessful in life and will eventually be naturally selected off the planet (a painful, painful truth), I decided some time ago to simply abandon society one day and walk with beasts until I burn out and die. True story. I await only a single catalyst, which I won't name here. There's no need for alarm. This isn't a confession of suicide or anything. On the contrary, it seems like a much better way to live than to be perpetually feeling my way through an ever changing maze. In fact, I’m kind of glad these past few years have been such a struggle. If they hadn’t been, God only knows how long I’d be blindly chasing the American Dream. Perhaps I’d have never realized its controlling effect.

My recent trip to Big Bend was a kind of trial run for how I’d fare in the most extreme conditions and to my dismay, it proved even more treacherous than expected. I don’t mind not living to 80 but I most certainly don’t want to croak in my 30s, which is what would have happened if I’d needed to hunt and gather and scare away big animals that wanted to eat me every day.

So sailing.

I can’t think of anything more wild. The ocean makes so much sense now. It was an undesirable place for me when wanderlust first struck my heart. I was barely a man and people and ignorance weren’t so upsetting for me then because I was a part of it. I first arrived in Canada at the age of 20, a solo high school dropout, an American statistic, unknowingly becoming self-aware. The world outside of the United States never crossed my mind so you can trust me when I say that I was the worst of ambassadors but I had charm and a pretty sweet vocabulary from all the fiction I’d read in lieu of school books. Traveling taught me as much as I learned in college the following years. “I wake to sleep and take my waking slow/I learn by going where I have to go” so says Roethke. So say I.

Having a community is no longer the necessity I need fulfilled as I did at 20, and I finally appreciate my unusual interests and the complementary nature of solitude. I used to think I was just degrading out of American norms that I couldn’t fit into and in a way I suppose that’s true. But those norms are sedentary and such inaction blobs us into diabetes and heart disease, xenophobic fascism, and an ignorant fury that sounds loudest: freedom, freedom, freedom. It’s all for you. I could handle it all if there wasn’t such a quiet despair storming in my mind. At least I can see it. So many people never understand their discontent and are dragged to the end of their days unwilling to let go of all that was left unaccomplished. I can’t have that.

Since I know nothing of sailing, it’s going to take some time to get acquainted. I invite any of you to email me links or book suggestions if you've got 'em. In the meantime, I think I’ll stroll through a few more national parks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Amazing puppet update

Folks, I have nothing to say, but since I haven’t said anything in a while, I thought I’d update you on the puppet project I’ve been lazily working on.

First, let me say that I will not be performing with this thing. I regard ventriloquists as dumbshit hacks and I have no interested in joining their ranks. There seems to be some confusion about that.

Second, it’s unlikely I’ll finish this by Halloween, which was my original reason for even starting, but that’s okay ‘cause I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process.

Third, rather than take a bunch of pictures of the thing and its parts, I’ve uploaded a second video starring the sexiest man alive, me. If any of you comment on how rigid and uncomfortable I appear to be on camera, I will choke you unconscious.

Fourth, for those of you who remember my little art project from last year, fear not. The puppet is office/child/elderly/pet friendly. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Change

Friday was a day of loss. First, my favorite coffeeshop suddenly closed shop and left me streamlined to a Starbucksian limbo. I haunt around three places in my little comfort bubble and 360 Primo has been one of them for several years. The coffee was perfect, too. But now it’s closed, and no matter how much I want things to remain the same, they change. In retrospect, I see it now. There was a point a few weeks back when the owner’s and the baristas’ attitudes toward me became strangely friendly. One of them even called me by name, though I’ve never given it to anyone there. I’m still figuring out the psychology behind that.

Second, a friend of mine finally succumbed to her struggle with pancreatic cancer. Her name was Janelle Dupont. We tutored writing together at Austin Community College for the past few years. The last time I had seen her was several months ago. Her skin had turned completely yellow by the time my shift ended and she never returned to work. It’s important to understand that I call few people “friend” so to lose one of them . . . stings. Janelle was good people. She was someone I listened to and learned from and whom I wish I’d been around more as a developing man. I loved her mind and I valued her insight and embraced her influence. She will be missed, by me and by many others.

The world turns. Know what I mean?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Big Bend 6 of 6

Day 6

Austin. Around 5AM, I heard a crunching outside my tent just before a flashlight spotlighted into the mesh roof. Good thing I wasn’t nude. “Carlos?” I heard. It was Scott. He’d be leaving within the hour and wanted to know if I still wanted a ride. Yes. It was either leave with Scott or not leave the park at all. He vanished and I packed my gear in the dark.

The mountains circling the basin cut into the starry horizon like jagged blots of ink and I lost a lot of time just staring at what I could see of the universe. Stars without light pollution make so much more sense. Of course humanity would create time and navigation and mathematics and religion and pure wonder in a world without lights. Things are recognizable in a dark sky. Constellations and their paths are not impossible to identify and follow and if you’re a creature on the brink of reason, you’re going to incorporate into your life what you see in the night as you would prevailing winds, tides, weather patterns, and animal migrations. The sky as a system in our cognitive development seems to be lost these days. It doesn’t affect us the way so many natural systems have in the past and we forget that it’s there, like a season that warms and cools the mind alone. It’s like a combination lock, spinning in billions of independent dynamos and of all the beasts on this planet, it’s ours to figure out and explore but we’ve forgotten about it. Where would we be, I wonder, if our faces weren’t cemented to so many luxuries that simply ease the slow passing of our time? Where would we be if humanity’s attention had never left the stars? Don’t know. Meteorites streaked across the sky. Five in three minutes. It sounds like bullshit, I suppose, seeing so many meteorites in so few days, seeing them every time I’ve ever hitchhiked, but they’re there. I promise. All you have to do is look up. I’ve met adults who have never seen one.

Scott and I left Big Bend and he dropped me off on I-10 where he’d picked me up. He disappeared toward Indiana and resurfaced as my Facebook friend. I’m okay with that. I walked a couple of miles to an underpass that in the blistering heat, never seemed to get any closer. There, I constructed this sign and sat for the next 4 hours.


It was the only shade as far as the eye could see and you could see in all directions after you left the mountains and wandered in the flat of an all-around desert. I stood for a while. I sat. I read. I stretched my back. I paced in bored circles. I despaired. Shortly after arriving, this bizarre creature appeared:


I obsessed over it for about an hour. It looked like a wildcat of some sort but it had a long snout like a fox. At first it lazily watched the chattering birds that swarmed the underpass then it slept. I could have crept up and had a closer look while it napped but I left it alone. What a total asshole I’d be to chase it away from the only comfortable shade for miles. Anyway, I named him Mr. Aesop.

After several hours of doing nothing, the heat began to overtake my senses and I started nodding with sleep. The occasional jerk wailed an amplified and elongated horn as s/he (likely he) passed, and the fox and I would snap awake, wag our heads with bewilderment then eye each other with suspicion. During a moment of wakefulness, I turned in the direction of traffic that had judged me and passed and saw a beat up red truck reversing on the interstate’s shoulder. I sprang off the road, waved au revoir to Mr. Aesop, and met the truck half way to my bridge.

Jimmy Ortega was a long-haired Mexican-Indian looking man with a red bandana covering much of his forehead like an indigenous outlaw of yesteryear or Axl Rose. He wore a sleeveless tee shirt, exposing a massive black widow tattoo down his right arm and an equally sized snake down the inside of his left. His eyes beneath the red bandana held a comatose vacancy and his right hand held a tall can of beer. I hopped in. Jimmy was a kind and generous but tragic man who admitted alcoholism and drug addiction and celebrated a life of aimless rebellion, strife, and self destruction. I hated his tragedy and even though he was born in 1969, 11 years before me, I wanted to grab him by his shoulders and shake him until he realized he’s a man who’s been pitted against himself since the day he came out of his mother’s womb with brown skin. I think I’ve transcended feeling angry over race and class and gender discrimination. I’m just overwhelmingly saddened by the ignorance of their victims now. Family, friends, and myself included. Jimmy had two sons, one freshly paroled from prison, the other freshly put in. He lived with his daughter and because he didn’t have his own, he gave me her cell number in case I couldn’t get a ride by nightfall. We rode 100 miles into his hometown, Ozona, where he was “hot.” He asked me not to tell cops how I got there if they stopped me. “Just tell them I was looking for work and I picked you up 12 miles out of town. That’s it.” I agreed. “It’s because I’m hot in this town,” he repeated. I said I understood.

Jimmy dropped me off and I lugged myself into a restaurant for my first meal of the day. The usual stares followed me to my table and with satisfaction, I recognized familiar faces I’d seen pass me in countless cars on I-10. I don’t blame them for not picking me up but I do hope they felt ridiculous for not stopping. I’ve picked up rides that way.

The walk back to the highway proved to be too much for my old hiking boots and the sole on my right foot ripped half off. I had noticed their decline while at Big Bend and hoped they’d weather the trip, but alas, outside of Ozona, Texas on August 17, 2010, shoes that have seen upwards of 10,000 miles in three different countries died. A moment of silence please. . . .Thank you.

I was walking like a man in clown shoes, searching for a shady place to duct tape my flapping shoe when Jody stopped for me. I liked Jody. Within the first few minutes of our ride together, he pointed to the side of the road and said, “Oh that looks like a good place to hide a body” and laughed hysterically. “I was thinking the same thing,” I told him. He and I had a lot in common, personality-wise. In everything else, we were markedly different. He was 40, married 13 years, a business owner, and a father of two children. He was a successful foil of me. We ranted, laughed, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. He even drove me an hour past San Antonio, the junction by which he intended to change directions and continue to Houston, and took me home. Decent man. Also a new online friend.

So yeah, I made it back. And for those of you who worried so much about me, here I am, and I didn’t just survive. I made it back alive. More alive than many. More alive than most.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Big Bend 5 of 6

Day 5
It never rained and I spent the sauna night peeling my unclean and sweaty body from the foam bedroll I’ve learned is a hitchhiking luxury I could never live without. I was still worn out by the time the sun came up and my body not only ached with weariness, but I was mentally fatigued as well. I needed a day to rest, but I didn’t have one. Scott had offered to take me back to I-10 the following morning and I had accepted. Judging by the park’s few campers and my little stint in Fort Stockton, I recognized my stranded predicament and appreciated the luck in meeting Scott. So I scrubbed my skin with a wet handkerchief, cleaned and duct-taped my new and old blisters, and set off on the Laguna Meadows Trail to the Colima Trail to the Boot Canyon Trail and down the Pinnacles Trail for 9.5 miles of Big Bend goodness.

This was probably my favorite ramble. It pretty much covered the terrain of the Chisos Basin and it was the only place that I felt completely separated from other people. The trail cut through sandy desert, cool mountain forest, rolling hills, and steep canyons.


I also saw a lot of wildlife:

Oh yeah. That's a tarantula
Vinegaroon, aka Whip Scorpion
Desert Cottontail Wabbit (click for a closer look)

To fulfill some childish need, I spent some time whistling into this canyon.


The echo was gratifying for really no reason at all and it upset pockets of Mexican jays who squawked back from seemingly every direction but it was pleasant. When was the last time you stopped and listened to an echo? It had been a long time for me.

One more day, folks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Big Bend 4 of 6

Day 4: Emory Peak

I was glad to be in Big Bend, don’t get me wrong, but I was mildly disappointed with the cupcake feel of it all. (mildly because Death’s (or at least Pestilence’s) hot breath had never been heavier than it had been two days prior, and I’d amended my ideals for the sake of being alive.) The trails through the most scenic areas were preconceived and if I didn’t hike them, I knew I’d be missing something. My ridiculous pouting came to an end, hiking the 12 miles of Emory Peak. (12, including my march to the trail) You might be thinking that 12 miles is nothing to sing about, and it’s not. But, the Emory Peak Trail starts at the basin and climbs 7,825 feet to the highest point in the park. We’re talking 6 miles straight up and 6 miles straight down with dozens of spotty-visioned breaks in between, in at least 106 degrees of heat. (That’s 41.1C for all you sensible non-Americans)
It was tiring.
After hours of solitude, the gnats and flies that swarmed my delicious stink started taking on human characteristics and I’d often pause and listen, thinking their buzz was someone speaking to me. I just ignored them after a few false stops. They weren’t, after all, in my head and they weren’t instructing me to murder anyone so I knew I’d be fine. The trail seemed to go on forever and I spit out exhausted expletives pretty much from start to finish, though not out of frustration or discontent. You could easily replace my gasping “f” words with “hallelujahs” and understand the same appreciation. Pain aside, the mountains were so imposing and sheer that being among them was simply marvelous. That’s such an underappreciated word: marvelous. But they were marvels and I was overwhelmed by them.

Mexican Jay
Agave havardiana
The trail ended near the peak so I climbed over boulders and under low-hanging tree limbs to a sheer rock face. It wasn’t the 360 degree view I had expected. Sure I could see in a wide half circle but there was a giant rock wall in my face. If there hadn’t been a pair of hikers 30 feet at its top, I would have assumed I went the wrong direction. “Hello there!” a man said from the top. I was looking through a gap in the rock at what scenery was visible from my position. “It’s a much better view from up here,” he said. Pampered by the pre-cut path I had enjoyed for the past few hours, I told him that I couldn’t seem to find the trail. “You have to climb up,” he said. Climb? I watched in disbelief as the man and woman slowly inched down the steep rock face. This wasn’t a hill, people. This was a damn near vertical climb and my legs already felt like noodles from the miles of zigzagging switchbacks. I sagged against the rock in despair.
Heights.
Heights and zombies are my two things. I jumped out of an airplane once. I was stoked too until I opened the tiny plane’s hatch and saw the ground thousands of feet below. In fact, “jumped” out of a plane is probably the wrong word. I went rigid in paralyzed fear and my tandem partner shoved me out. On Emory Peak, I was experiencing the same moment of dumb paralysis.
The two hikers reached my level and began a long trudge away from the peak. My thoughts immediately searched for a rational excuse not to climb that rock, and it didn’t take long to find one: if I fall, I’m dead. It was that simple and there was no question about how dead I’d be. This was the highest mountain in the park and I was 30 feet from the top. I wasn’t fearfully exaggerating the severity of a fall. You fall, you die . . . unless you fell in one small area. Then, you’d just break some bones or your crown or whatever and have an even more uncomfortable hike back to camp.
What a bastard. Victory 30 feet up and I was too terrified to even try. The ascent was doable. It was the descent that had me frozen in indecision. Do you know how many rooftops I was rescued from as a child? Lots. I could always find impossible ways to the tops of buildings and trees but getting down often required a shrieking leap or the assistance of a grumbling adult.
I peered over the cliff where I’d potentially be free falling and sighed. The hike back would be long and shameful, and I knew that because it was pure cowardice that kept me from reaching the peak I would obsess over my self-inflicted emasculation for a long, long time. Chickening out would be a severe blow to my ego and could potentially take years of personal recovery. This moment could ruin the whole memory of Big Bend. So, I packed my water skin and camera into my daypack and reached my nervous hands for the rock.
Up.
5 feet.
10 feet.
15 feet.
I looked down. The sloping mountainside, hundreds of feet below, hypnotized me and I became dizzy. I tore my gaze from the fall and stared at the rock I was holding with my white fingernails. My mouth was dry and my backpack felt like a swinging lead ball.
20 feet.
30.
Made it.
If I’d had a flag, I’d say then was an appropriate time to wave it around and plant it, cautiously of course.
There was no wind or sound at the top and the rocky circumference was probably a narrow 10 feet. You could see the whole park from that tiny spot and by George, I did. All it took was the shriveling of genitalia, the tightening of orifices, and the unforgiving American stigma of failure.


Notice my stabilizing foot? Safety first.


The descent was as horrific as I expected. On the more shelf-like outcrops, I inched down on my clenched buttocks. For the more vertical spots, there was no way to avoid hugging the rock tightly and blindly lowering my feet to jutting fractures an inch wide. I did a lot of quiet reassuring on the way down. “Okay. Okay. It’s okay. Just don’t look down. You’re almost there. Who’s the man? Who’s the man, Carlos? You’re the man.” When I reached an acceptable level of injury, fear completely vanished and I made it to the bottom with hand-dusting bravado.  “That wasn't so bad,” I thought. “I could probably even do it again!” I didn't, but I started my stroll down the mountain with a whistling strut. (I reached the basin a few hours later practically crawling with exhaustion (and I napped and read until the sun went down))

Scott drove by my campsite before total darkness and we kept each other company on the balcony of an employee lodge until I was too tired to keep my eyes open. A storm rumbled and lightning flashed all around the mountainous enclosure and with a heavy heart, I staked the heat-containing rainfly over my tent so I wouldn’t have to do it in the middle of the night, in the rain. I’d figure out my next hike in the morning.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Big Bend 3 of 6

Day 3

As the sun came up, I was walking the couple of miles back to I-10. In the night, I had resolved to offer my third day as a final push for Big Bend and if I wasn’t picked up, I’d continue west to Balmorhea, the campground Alicia had told me about, and try camping on the lake there. By mid morning, I was sitting in the shadow of the underpass beneath the interstate, reading a book and propping up a piece of scrap cardboard that said “B. Bend” in blue ink. I wouldn’t chance rides from anyone not going directly there.


My shoulder’s were tender from the excess I had packed and my feet ached from the blisters I had drained and duct taped before setting off, but the morning was breezy and cool and I had plenty of water as long as I wasn’t burning it out of my body in the sun. Hours went by before Scott picked me up. Here’s how I remember him:


Scott was a 23 year old college student from Indiana who had worked in Big Bend over the summer. He was on his way there to pick up his remaining belongings and had he not stopped, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the national park or I’d still be there trying to get back out. Conversation was pleasant in our two hours together but our topic of discussion quickly turned to something I had hoped to avoid: politics. It was inevitable, I suppose. He was a business student at a Christian college, and I’m a heathen quasi socialist but we remained civil, he not directly revealing his Christian conservatism and I not directly revealing my liberal desire to choke Christian conservatives until their eyes bulge from their heads and they are dead. He let me out at the Chisos Basin and I found a campsite to call home for the next few days.

The Chisos Basin is a beautiful volcanic crater surrounded by orange mountains, the remnants of magma cooling directly into igneous rock. (That’s not why the mountains are orange, you silly animal. I’m guessing that’s due to the oxidization of molecular iron in the rock, but I could be wrong. Feldspars in granite are kind of the same color and they’re not rusty, so . . . whatever.) Their encapsulating grandeur will have to just live in my memory because these images lack the four other senses that made me spend so much time with my eyes skyward.


I stopped at the ranger station and bought a topographical map of the area that showed area trails in the basin. “The Window” was apparently a sight not to miss and since my ambitious Grizzly Adams agenda had been castrated by the sun, I equipped a daypack and hiked the 4.4 miles to this point of interest I’d heard so much about. This is the only picture I took of myself:


Spectacular. A small stream cut through shadowy canyons to trickle out into the vast open. A strong wind blew in through the Window's steep aperture and between it and the bubbling spring, there was only nature. It was getting dark and because I had an irrational fear of being mauled to death by a black bear or mountain lion, I started back. I was just becoming comfortable with the fact that an animal would not kill me and, in fact, was enjoying the rare sighting of a slate-throated redstart when I heard a thrashing in the sloping vegetation beside me. I instinctively made a guttural protest in its direction and it thrashed even more. I walked faster, careful not to run. There was another rustling as whatever the thing was kept pace with me so I stopped moving and the sound continued on. I was rethinking my ignoring a trail warning that advised not to hike the Window near dark, when the ominous sound stepped out of the bushes and became a black bear. I surprised myself by not panicking, though I did take a few absent steps backward. It was a juvenile and what filled me with the most dread was the potential for a bigger and more aggressive mama bear into tow. But manliness aside, there was still a bear blocking my path. The ferocious man killer stood in the trail and stared at me with demonic red eyes, blood and gore (in my mind) dripped from its bared jowls and it pawed the earth with only just contained energy, so I took the opportunity to slowly uncap my camera and snap this picture.


It didn’t move and I certainly wasn’t going to squeeze past it so I reached down and picked up several rocks then raised my arms above my head and roared. The poor thing bounced in dopey surprise and clumsily tried to hide its awkward bulk in the bushes, where it could still watch me. I ventured a few steps and guiltily tossed a rock at the ground where it was hiding and it ran off for good. I didn’t hear much brush rustling, though, so I knew he was probably just hiding better. I still feel guilty for scaring it. It was just a curious kid.
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