Peanut Gallery Notes to My Generation

I can’t say that I’ve seen the best minds of my generation do much of anything. The baby Gen-X/Millennial 1.0 crossover demographic whom for the sake of brevity I will refer to as “X/Mers” (born ~1978-1982) has done little but be ironic and try to throwback everything in hopes of breathing life into a youth that their largely divorced parents all but snuffed out. Sure, some are funny. Many think they’re clever – even I did at one point until I backed out of tennis-style text messaging – and social media gives plenty of platforms. A lost generation with a college education and a NINJA (No Income, No Job or Assets) state of mind. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is an op-ed, not an anthropological thesis.

Now I’m not speaking about the easy target that are overt hipsters; flannels and undercuts and pithy tattoos and a mind blowing collection of shitty art and MP3s. No the overt hipster has long since ridden the fixed gear of mediocrity into marginal society. A lower caste of specters that no one of importance cares about. What I’m talking about is the new parents. The new homeowners (or aspiring homeowners, the folks that studied art history in college and whose parents are retired. The comedy writers and mid to upper-mid managers, the people that should know better. The growing new batch of “average folks,” the insurance salesmen of middle America, the machinists; my comrades that once aspired to larger things and now, to unapologetically borrow from C.P. “won’t fuck to save their species.” They have kids, sure, but they don’t innovate. They’ll write someday or do that thing they always wanted. The successful ones (if they can be called that) might work in T.V. before fading to obscurity or in some meaningless tech position or write jokes or blog about bacon.

Momentarily returning to the hipsters, the difference between X/Mers and hipsters is that hipsters don’t actually do anything. The folks I’m talking about do. They do lots of things all the time. They go on hikes and trips to Asia and rack up credit and buy Subarus and try new restaurants, but aside from basic economic consumption few do anything thing that matters. Perhaps it’s where I live. Perhaps it’s the protracted adolescence, an indictment of myself, my friends and my surroundings. I don’t know. Calls to action seldom result in anything and I frankly don’t have the passion (see irony above) to rally anyone into anything. Ah, so perhaps this is more of a personal indictment than I initially thought.

The result: over time Millennials will break into two camps. The first camp will be the replacement to the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers have always been obsessed with the zeitgeist going back to when they were a part of it themselves. The richest “Me” generation is pumping money into their youngest children/oldest grandchildren with the supreme confidence of the dying that youth is the solution to everything. Tech, business, charity, education; if you are over twenty five, you need not apply as your ideas are old and therefore irrelevant. The Baby Boomers don’t have to acknowledge the irony, because they don’t care. It’s all about ROI and then cash in and then go to Eagles and nag champa heaven in an awesome ’57 Chevy convertible and a Tommy Bahama shirt. Subsidized by these assholes, this first group of Millennials will be fine.

The second Millennial camp – the majority – will form the solid foundation of poverty and failure. Unable to ever crawl out of debt, their parents will leave them with nothing, yet they will reproduce and along with many of the X/Mers boost the ever increasing population of sickly and obese children that are for the first time in American history projected to have a shorter life span than their parents. This majority group of Millennials along with the X/Mers will continue to populate and consume and rack up debt as the Boomers die and a small handful of Chinese, Indian and Russian kids (with a sprinkling of other ethnicities for good measure) will take their tech/innovation billions and effectively rule the world with an economic stranglehold that won’t be shaken lightly.

Gloom and doom projections yes, but consider this: these future oligarchs have never been hungry. They don’t care about cars or designer clothes or government or war. All they care about is curating their virtual life experiences, fast paced entertainment and consumerism. The concept of currency to them being an intangible, readily available thing of little consequence as it’s inexhaustible. It’s simply a thing you use as you please. Currency for them will be akin to how most Americans view running water today. Now, whereas in the past the downtrodden everyman had a fire in their soul that would cause them to unionize, revolt, overthrow, put their foot down and stand up for themselves when pushed to the brink, we now have the fattest and stupidest – also living curated virtual lives – with no sense of community, country, duty or justice. The “me” generation all over, only without the power, education or conviction.

This is why I have so much vitriol towards the X/Mers. This is a generation that grew up under the Baby Boomers and saw the flipside to their selfish dreams. Most of us had access to early computers either at home or in school. We grew up with video games and pre fucked-up Star Wars and really cool physical toys (look at old G.I. Joes, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, Barbie Dolls, My Little Ponies, etc. compared to today’s reboots)that showed industrial craftsmanship; most of us had either nothing or pagers by the end of high school. If your friend wasn’t home you’d wait. If you couldn’t find a public phone, too bad. Cell phones and MySpace were a college thing. There are tubs full of CDs and VHS tapes and DVDs with nowhere to go. You can now download your favorite games to your console for a fraction of the allowance that once had to be saved up. Divorce used to hurt, not be taken for granted.

The X/Mers bridged the gap of tech and brick and mortar and what have we done? Drunk History and opening offal-centric restaurants. We spend money we can’t afford to buy shit from our youth. We dress like teenagers well into gray hair (myself included, sans the gray hair), not as artists or entrepreneurs, but because it’s all we know. As X/Mers stop wagging their fingers at the increasingly marginalized hipster while hiding behind their aging sense of irony, I wonder if it will ever be time to grow up? The core of Gen X are all in their forties and fifties now. The ones that stood for something made music when making music was hard and succeeding mattered. Many formed careers and many faded away, but there was a fire that somehow got quenched in the transition. Not quite kids, not quite adults and seen as nothing but varying degree purchase power to the big picture. They go back to school racking up debt for Masters’ programs that mean as little as their undergrad education. The world is growing smaller and never before has being so young mattered so much off of a battlefield.

And so I reach the end of another rant. Certainly not a new one, and I wish I had a meaningful call to action, but there is nothing innovative and new to preach. Boomers are dying, Gen X  is aging, X/Mers floating in the ether, Millennials enjoying their time in the sun, and the future – that generation that knew nothing analog and is rumored to perhaps never drive a car – is still in its infancy. What it means to the world, I cannot say. I’m a pessimist, so I deal in my milieu. We can hope for the often whispered Darwinian Flush, though save some terrible holocaust I don’t see how that might transpire. Fanaticism isn’t going to bring about long term change, no this is something more subtle and fast-moving. In the interim I can’t promise I won’t complain and try to do what I can as one might do when seeing a busted pipe in the midst of a drought.

Another Day in Studio City

The guy sat there all shaggy hair and old clothes in front of the Union Bank on Ventura Boulevard. He was likely a bum; had a few things with him. Packages of some sort. Could almost smell him through the television set and then he pulled out a gun and  POPOPOP he fired into the air. Everyone has cameras everywhere so it was caught just like a movie. A bad movie. He carried on and eventually the cops came and surrounded him.

Everyone watched as POPOPOP he fired again up and around at nothing in particular and they smoked his ass right there and that was it for him. Protocol being what it is, the cops brought out a robot to inspect the packages, the idea being that the guy might have been a terrorist and the packages might have been bombs. They exploded the packages with the world watching and the bum’s equipment (ha) scattered everywhere, rags, paper, miscellaneous junk. They pulled the robot back in and waited for the CSI team to come.

By night the CSI team was doing their inspection and his body had been out in the valley heat for six or so hours, his body stinking worse, the blood dried black on the sidewalk. Some people still watched but not as many. There was too much to do and the guy was already dead. The action part was over and what was left was ugly and tedious. The guy hadn’t aimed at anyone save the cops so everyone knew what was going on, even if the cops had to wait and wait and follow all the rules. What did the guy care, baking there in the sun? Any way you slice it he got his reward.

A Birthday Party One Time

This was back many years before he drown. I had this big redheaded oaf of a friend named Jeff and I always looked forward to hanging out with him and swimming and playing Nintendo. Jeff’s parents used to throw his birthday parties in a wooded park and we would dress up in fatigues and have paintball wars. I looked forward to his birthday and we always had fun until the year the cops came and broke it up.

Most of us didn’t have paintball guns yet, so we had to play with wrist rockets which was still fun and made the fight more challenging. This particular year Jeff’s friend Chris came with a semi-automatic pistol that was the envy of all the other kids. It could shoot as fast as he could pull the trigger and at a much higher velocity that the wrist rockets were capable of. It was a neat gun and we were all in for some trouble. Especially since Chris was the kind of bastard kid that bullied others and whose dad had thick hairy arms and didn’t say I love you. I hated Chris before he had this neat gun.

Running around in the woods and through the creeks we had a great time until Chris popped up and battered you with a hail of paintballs. The paint stung like hell and Chris was the kind of kid that would have frozen them. I’m not sure if they were frozen but they hurt like they were. We all tried to get him and a few of us did, but the wrist rockets were no match.

Still, the day was good and we all ran and got tired in the woods. At one point Chris got the drop on me and hit me plenty as I fumbled to load a ball. I remember him laughing in a broken pubescent cackle. Chris was the kind of kid who grew up faster too, and would fuck all throughout high school and shave and have a car people envied. He cackled as he unloaded his semi-automatic on me and then ran off. The paintballs hurt and he had won. Guys like that always win, I thought.

Later, it was time for cake and we all talked about how much fun we had and how paintball wars were the most fun in the world. We exchanged battle stories with each other as the cake was cut and passed around. Then Chris began to brag about how he shot the shit out of me. I was little and had glasses then so it was easy to pick on me so he did. I didn’t say anything. Some kids laughed but I think most didn’t really like him and were maybe afraid of him. As the cake came around I took my wrist rocket and went behind Chris while he was talking to someone. I put a ball in it and went right behind Chris’s head and let the rocket snap. I was close enough that the leather pad slapped him right on the skull and he screamed in a screamed a pubescent scream. I don’t remember saying anything as Jeff stood in front of me, between me and Chris. Jeff was huge and he knew Chris would beat me up if he could get to me. Chris cried and screamed in rage. His fancy gun hadn’t protected him then.

Shooting a man in the back of the head is a shitty thing to do, but as a kid it felt right. We were done with the paintball war after that and one by one the parents came and took us home. I don’t recall if Jeff’s parents told mine what I’d done or not. I only saw Chris one more time after that, years later and he brought it up but said he was over it. I wasn’t, and still hated him. I don’t know what happened to him but I’m sure he’s changing oil somewhere or washing dishes with his big hairy arms and not knowing how to say I love you to his kids. Jeff continued to be a great friend until he took up kayaking in Oregon and flipped and drowned as his friends tried to pull him out. He was just too big.

Jamaica Me Crazy or A Misanthrope’s Journey to the Land of Riddim

I didn’t write a solitary word in Jamaica. That’s not to say that I didn’t make a note of everything, but my idea of writing in the jungle was washed away with so much rum and sunshine. I didn’t do any work of any sort and it didn’t take long for me to stop caring. Jamaica isn’t a place for work in the conventional sense, it’s a study in humanity and in its current state, the layers are as varied as the foliage.

Jamaica for many years held the same allure as Holland: that is, none whatsoever. A flock of stinking tourists, blubbering through tea-stained eyes held no interest. As was the case with Holland, I was mistaken. Jamaica is a land of heat and poverty, music and joy. The sea is warm, the weather always potentially vicious. The money has rolled in from abroad to create enormous monstrosities along the beach where the bloated and browned come to sip punch and smoke pot with the moronic and obvious secretiveness of teenagers. Not far are the half built houses of the natives, the benches lining the streets, the goats and dogs and motorcyclists giddily dancing along the streets just inches away from haphazard automobiles.

Fortunately, I made my stay in a couples only, bungalow-strewn jungle retreat across the street from its own small beach. The jungle never sleeps and at no point did I suffer the screech of children and miserable scolding parents. Being an all-inclusive situation, I appreciate the hypocrisy of my disdain for the large resorts. Still I hold to my judgments. I formed relationships, was sold nothing, ate wonderful food and learned from locals where the locals live and what they do for fun. What they feel is wrong with their country (corruption) and what they love (most everything else), but first on the docket was what brought me to Jamaica: I needed a vacation.

Getting settled in was a simple matter of fact. The bungalow was cozy and comfortable. There was no panes in the windows, rather mesh and plantation shutters. The bathrooms were small but updated nicely. The light was dim and the entirety of the space consisted of studio, bathroom and lanai. These cottages were originally built to house white miners in the 1940′s though now the compound passes seamlessly for the boutique tourist establishment that it is.  Still, there was an obvious balance to the place that certainly cultivated charm; a balance of resort and gentleman camping that could never pass off as roughing it, though also falls far short from the amenities of more moneyed establishments.

First activity was the beach. Bloody Bay is serene and smooth, the water bathtub-warm with practically nonexistent surf. Each hotel has its own section roughly cordoned off by a rope and buoy system, though nothing impedes walking the length of the beach save a stone barrier near the southernmost curve. Peddlers pass and lackadaisically hawk their wares, seemingly uninterested past initial contact if you buy or not. I opened with the tourist drink of rum punch which was sugary and approachable. I quickly switched to rum and Ting, the local grapefruit soda. And true to the local saying: rum and Ting does indeed go with everything.

There is a bar and grill on the beach where one can grab a burger, jerk cheesy fries, fruit salad and a ubiquitous Red Stripe. There are also plenty of activities for the restless, such as snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing and parasailing. For those packing penicillin and a nostalgia for Spring Break, there is the “Wild Thing” a party boat equipped with a waterslide, two trampolines and a dancing staff blasting loud and redundant reggae. I cannot give a firsthand account of life aboard the Wild Thing save an interesting anecdote that goes as follows:

There is a nearby tourist trap called Rick’s Café where people go to spend money and either pay a Jamaican to, or jump themselves from the cliff from atop where the café sits. A while back a wedding party decided to take the Wild Thing out to Ricks, partaking of the local drugs and copious amounts of alcohol.

Upon reaching Ricks, one of the more inebriated of the grooms’ party decided he would like to jump from the thirty foot cliff. A perfectly acceptable activity, though it’s made clear that one jumps at their own risk. And feet first. Apparently the warning signs are everywhere and clearly visible.

This particular gentleman decided he was up to the challenge and dove from the cliff only to emerge bumping against the rocks in a prone state. Apparently the corpse sloshed around in the surf like this for a few minutes before the staff realized the situation. The drunken and stoned crowd evidently didn’t have much of a reaction as the lifeguards fished him out and rushed the body to the hospital via taxi, ostensibly under the guise that there was still hope of reviving him.

This was relayed to me by a pipe layer from Illinois and his wife who were on their third visit to Negril.

Now I have to way of confirming the validity of the story, but what I saw of the party tourists I have no reason to doubt. I have heard of many such stories over the years of tourists sustaining bodily harm or even dying whether by mere accident or stupidity. From what I saw of the scene at Rick’s driving by days later, coupled with the nearly daily distraction of the Wild Thing boarding party goes, a cliff jumper snapping his neck makes as much sense as a hiker rolling his ankle.

Growing tired of the same scenery after a few days I ventured out in the capable hands of Lloyd, a gregarious former military man-cum-tour guide who I quickly learned seems to know everyone on the island. For $150 American he will take you to a semi-secluded destination I had learned about known as Mayfield Falls. I politely asked to have as much of a cultural sightseeing as possible and was in no way disappointed.

The Mayfield Falls are tucked away up in the mountains outside Negril. About an hour drive, we wound through the narrow streets and got a fair view of what life must truly be like in Jamaica. There were people out on the street every step of the drive up into the jungle. There is no part of the island that I experienced that isn’t teeming with life. The roads are treacherous with potholes, sporadic traffic and other obstacles, but Lloyd made the drive look absurdly easy. Winding up the hills the marshes and grasslands were overwhelmed Mangos, bananas, African Tulips and among the trees massive bamboo groves, bushes and ferns of every sort.

Reaching the village outside the falls had a compound feel. This is an insulated community and as I signed up for the hike was immediately up-sold to purchase lunch – which I did – at nearly $16 for snapper. I found this exorbitant and Lloyd quickly talked the woman down to a more reasonable price. I soon learned that all the tourist money goes to sustaining the villagers and I gladly made up for the difference later. I suppose that being transparent and simply charging a few dollars and asking for donations either hasn’t been tried or has met with unsatisfactory results. Either way, charitable as many of us are, if the motives are clear… but I digress. Once introduced to our guide Dwight, we set off across the bamboo bridge and down into the water.

Your humble correspondent won’t weigh down the piece with the myriad details that make the Mayfield Falls worth visiting. Sufficed to say, it’s a unique experience and if one is fortunate to not go as part of a group – which was my luck – that experience is exponentially better. The pools, the river jumping, he underwater tunnel, not to mention the sheer magnificence of the environment growing along the banks have to be witnessed firsthand. On the hike back to the village Dwight talked about the flora and the curious absence of fauna (there are few animals native to Jamaica that exist today; the largest – and imported – predator being the mongoose) and shed the aforementioned light on the people of Mayfield Falls. They are private and wish to remain so, yet they depend on tourist dollars. A sad conundrum around the world as these experiences dwindle with exposure.

On the tour back to town Lloyd talked about the neighborhoods, took us into the wealth of Orange Hill, showed where the foreign currencies are spent and ended at the westernmost point of Negril where the island gives way to rocky cliffs. Being close to sundown we landed at Whoopee’s for a drink. This was to be my final tourist-free experience of the trip. The sun went down and as we made our way back to the resort, the people came out. Hordes of them; natives, tourists, rich, poor, cops, kids, drunk, hobbled. The trip back was a trip indeed. This is where we passed Rick’s with its slew of waiting buses, The Caves, the clubs, Sandals, Riu and the rest of the shit show. This is the Jamaica that brings people to Jamaica. This is the Jamaica that my elitist attitude makes no subscription to. A necessary evil and seemingly more burdensome to me that to the people whose homes are overrun by the throbbing mobs. Yet this is the way it goes.

The rest of the trip was spent near the resort, watching the sea, strolling the beach, swimming and meeting people from all walks of life. I stand by my opinion that where I was fortunate to land was the least overwhelming of the other resorts I saw, and most of the other guests found that aspect the most charming as well. One solid foray out hardly counts as an adventure, but truthfully I didn’t come for adventure, I came to relax. The taste I got will certainly bring me back and I can’t stop singing praises to the wonderful people of the island. Never an optimist, I’m certain the days of a true experience are numbered. Whether that means more difficult to find or whether the plastic pantomime will stomp it out entirely, I can’t be sure. What I am sure of is that the passion of the island – the “riddim’” as they call it – won’t ever be eradicated as long as the Jamaican people exist.

I wanted to write about Jamaica while in Jamaica but I felt I would miss something. Perhaps this is masturbatory, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I spent as much time outdoors and experiencing as much of the pleasure the immediate part of the  island has to offer. It’s easy to sit and speculate and digest, but that’s what the wretched nineteen hour (multiple layovers) journey home was for. I leave you now a torn man. Don’t go to Jamaica because you might ruin it. Do go to Jamaica because they need you and if you truly want a great experience, all you have to do is ask.

Almost Over

Krebs sat nursing a beer in the clapboard bar adjacent to the Coconut Mallory while Cassie, far too young to be a grandmother at forty something asked him about life in Los Angeles and what the west coast was like. So do you see stars sometimes? She asked. Sometimes yeah, Krebs replied stifling a burp. He hadn’t been this was in a long while. What’d you do last night, Cassie asked. Oh, went down to Duval and drank at Captain Tony’s and then ended up at the Garden of Eden. The thought of last night or more the fragments of it – made him nauseous.

Cassie smiled, and said the Garden of Eden was strange but worth checking out at least once if for nothing else but to say you did it. He smiled feebly at her breasts and nodded agreement. Yeah, it was okay and then I ended up back here and there was that other bartender and then I don’t remember much. Cassie had seen this plenty and took it neutrally and then asked if he had gotten a chance to see an iguana.

This trip to Key West was the first Krebs had taken since he’d gotten out of the hospital and the idea of flying across country had him in nerves for the weeks leading up to it. His pal Smitty, who still lived up in Sac had come along and that seemed to help things some. They’d been friends for a long time and there was an ease about him that settled Krebs’ mind. The fact of the matter was that the flight had been fine as had the drive down from Miami. What he’d worried about, which was having another attack, hadn’t even remotely presented itself. Unfortunately, the smart idea to drink up the town now had him feeling awful.

Ostensibly the idea had been to make use of the timeshare and to visit the Hemingway house and maybe get some snorkeling in. Smitty had ear problems so going scuba diving was out of the question. They’d gotten in late the first night and the office had been closed and by the time they settled in to the apartment (which faced the air conditioning unit) they were tired and just drank a few beers and did a little bullshitting and then went to bed. After Smitty had closed his door Krebs sat up in his room and stared at the set with the anticipation that something had to go wrong, and eventually he drifted off.

That day they’d dug the scene at the clapboard bar and that’s where they met Cassie. She didn’t seem to take as much to Smitty, but Krebs kept up with her and flirted innocently and tried to learn as much as he could about the place. It was odd to him to be a stranger in a new place and the tense waves he normally felt were gone; here he was anyone he wanted to be. He was a big shot from the big city on the west coast, not some slob realtor with a few hundred in the bank and a beat up ten year old Nissan.

After a beer they went to the pool where they met Mike, a loud middle aged dago bachelor who was travelling with his pal John, a married guy who lived in northern California. The four of them shot the shit and Mike bellowed about the girls he’d gotten and the food he cooked and how no one would ever keep him down, especially no woman. John nodded solemnly and Smitty swam around keeping his distance from the obese women on the far end and Krebs just chuckled and agreed before calling out to Smitty, hey let’s head down to Duval Street and see what’s going on. They left the other two men on amicable terms and cleaned up and hailed a cab.

Krebs had been here before a number of years ago and had tied one on and ended up crawling like an animal back to the tiny apartment close to downtown and had then driven back the whole way to Miami while his friend had slept. It had been fun but it had been too much even for his twenty six year old self. Now at thirty two the idea of going around and actually soaking up the town had more appeal. He was still riding the high of this budding newfound persona as he yakked with the cabbie about Robert the Doll and tourist girls and ghosts and how the marlin fishing was this time of year.

One they got downtown it was a matter of what to see first. I want to try a mojito, Smitty said. It only seems right since we’re here. Finding a rum bar they sat and drank. Tastes kinda the same as every other one I’ve had, Smitty noted. Yeah, I don’t think there’s much to it, Krebs said. From there they went to the Boar’s Head and to some other Hemingway bar and finally settled on Tony’s, where they would spend most of their time when they were downtown over the next few days.

You wouldn’t believe the kinda pussy you get coming through here over spring break, the bartender said in his thick New York accent. Sometimes I pick me up two or three and we go party and it’s unbelievable, unbelievable what these girls’ bodies look like nowadays at twenty, twenty one. I remember them always looking pretty good, Smitty said. Yeah, maybe, but these college girls… whew. Almost make you blow your load before anything even comes off! And with that he laughed and moved down the bar. Too bad you’re off the market, Smitty said to Krebs. It’s not so bad. Fact is I was never any good with girls anyhow, Krebs said. Besides, it’s not even spring break now.

That was pretty much how the next two days went. Kayak or swim by the Mallory and then head into town and walk around and drink. It felt like a real vacation and there was something to be said for that. It had been ages since Krebs had flown somewhere with a friend and he was enjoying it. The anxiety was gone and all he had to bother him where the blisters on his feet.

Both Krebs and Smitty were aspiring writers only Smitty worked and didn’t write and Krebs wrote and didn’t work. Smitty was a grocery clerk and had been since his twenties. He would go off on adventures now and then and this was it for the year. Krebs was jealous of him in a way, and suspected that the opposite might be true. Krebs hated his life and his writer’s block and that’s what had lead to the breakdown. Looking back on it now it was surreal to think he’s put himself in the loony bin for a couple of days, but goddamn did he need it. Now he was here drinking a sickeningly sweet Hemingway daiquiri which he new damn well nothing Papa would have drank.

Whaddaya think of these? He asked Smitty. Eh, they’re okay. A little much on the ice and sugar and not enough on the booze. That’s what Key West felt like overall. Perhaps once it had been the hideaway of pirates; the bastion of bastards and grafters and whores and rapists, but now it was something different. All the hard angles had been smoothed out and diluted. The place smacked of the shitty tourist drinks they were choking down.

Finally Smitty had had enough after the Garden of Eden yielded not sexy coeds, but a solitary nude geriatric with a backpack. This was the place bartender had suggested. Smitty finished his drink and went home. Krebs, holding on to some hope stayed behind. There was some blonde stupid looking guy sitting next to him with a large gold star of David hanging around his neck. You a Jew? Krebs asked. The guy stared back at him and answered that no, he was not, but the necklace reminded him of his stepfather. This seemed incredibly stupid to Krebs, but he said nothing and ordered a few more drinks and drank them by himself before stumbling down the three flights of stairs to the street.

He couldn’t clearly recall the cab ride back to the Coconut Mallory, but he made it and wandered down to the clapboard bar where Cassie wasn’t working but rather some washed out ex-trophy wife stood stupidly dispensing beer and tiny boxes of wine. This woman was an idiot compared to Cassie and Smitty was long asleep so Krebs just kept drinking beer and looking around and hoping the plump brunette might turn beautiful but she did not. After a while Mike and John showed up to play pool.

Hi uh, Bob? Mike said. Krebs didn’t bother to correct him and instead launched into some diatribe recounting his adventures on Duval street and how the bartender told him about all the pussy that could be had around town during spring break. Then he retold about the Swedish-looking Jew and the old man with the massive gut and the tiny penis. At no point did either Mike or John say anything, but looked back and forth to each other uneasily as Krebs continued to hover around them.

Look buddy, maybe you should take it easy, huh? Mike suggested, clearly irritated. John said nothing and his expression betrayed nothing. I’m okay, Krebs said. I thought we were pals. You said, you know about Northern California… Finally John chimed in: look, We’re not your friends. That was the squirrelly guy who probably also got sick of your rambling. Now buzz off.

The next day Krebs couldn’t really remember much other than a vague guilt and how even at the time he felt hurt and alone. Laying nauseous in bed he dreamed that he’d composed himself or perhaps even threatened the men and they had apologized for being rude, though he knew that didn’t happen. He’d made a fool of himself and no amount of anything was going to fill that blurred confusing hole with consolation.

Downstairs Smitty was watching television. Really tied one on, huh? I guess so, Krebs replied weakly. You tried to make a pizza but got frustrated or something and I found it defrosting in a cold oven, Smitty informed him. Shit, I don’t remember that… and sure enough there was some pizza – now cooked and half gone – sitting on the countertop. I’m not surprised, Smitty said and went back to watching his program. I’m going to go snorkeling if you’re interested. I don’t want to sit inside all day. Krebs nodded as he began chewing his half of the pizza.

After vomiting and taking a cocktail of pills and fluids in order to settle his stomach, Krebs and Smitty had found themselves on a chartered boat with a small group of guides and three homosexual scuba divers. The day on the water had gone well, the rolling waves soothing Krebs’ sickness. In fact, he hadn’t gotten sick at all, rather one of the scuba divers did after being tossed around by the current inside of a wreck they’d been exploring.

The ocean was a tonic. The steel gray sky and the warm drizzle and the chop of the waves made Krebs feel better. Why was it every time he wanted to have fun he ended up with regret instead? He was a grown man acting like a damn fool, but there on the boat all was well in the world. To cap the afternoon he and Smitty had come face to face with a large barracuda that vaguely followed them around in hopes of scavenging something. Even the stings of the jellyfish on the way back to the boat didn’t seem to bother him and once on deck he looked at his red-banded skin where the tendrils had gotten him.

All the way back to shore he slept and it wasn’t until they got back to the hotel did the sense of irresponsibility return. The adventure was still fresh, yet just like the lingering phantom of the hangover, his mind was conflicted. Finally deciding to face himself he went down to the bar and found only Cassie working and he sat down and ordered a beer as the rain began to fall. This was the night before Krebs was going back to California and as Cassie spoke he looked out at the gently rippling water and the silently bobbing boats and wondered if he would ever find himself here again.

A Sick Man

I am a sick man. Or more specifically I am a plagued man. There is no point in time where I am not plagued and my health and nerves and sanity suffer. I have tried to relocate, meditate, medicate, self medicate and still I am ill. I can’t seem to find anything either over or under the counter, speaking to someone or homeopathic. I fear that I am to be plagued for life.

My illness isn’t unique, but for those of us afflicted, it seems that we suffer alone. Intellectually I know this is wrong, but that doesn’t change the perception. We are too ill to see things any other way. From morning to evening the plague is at its apex and then, as if by act of god, it calms down for the night to rest up and come back again in full force the next day.

Naturally, the plague I’m speaking of is people. I say this generally and without conviction. People needing things and asking questions and trying to connect and with problems to solve and orbiting myopically around their own petty troubles. My immune system doesn’t seem to have a defense for this. People constantly harass, harangue, question, nag, prod and whine to me. They need and want and simply cannot go on. People claw their way into my time (which holds no value to them) and set up like a tapeworm, slowly sucking away until one of us dies.

I’ve looked high and low and reflected and deflected and run away and have yet to find respite let alone a cure. All people don’t fall into this contagion, but certainly most. Especially if given a chance. They slip into my life like a candiru and cause sharp pain and drink my blood. I used to think it was primarily women, but I was wrong. It is most everyone of every gender, race and creed. They claw away with their complaints and opinions; they browbeat and hand-wring and fret and fuss and bloviate.

This plague cannot be cured, I’m convinced. Sad as it is, I believe I will have to run out the clock a sick man who can only look forward to the brief moments when the symptoms are manageable. Typing these words I realize how many might think that this isn’t indeed so much of a problem. Ignore these people and don’t take things personally. Set up boundaries. Ah yes, the simplicity of it all.

What many don’t realize is that it isn’t finding solutions for all these people that kills you. No, there is the irony of the thing. The incessant griping is the end in itself and therefore the virus is perpetual. The plague has no cure because in its very essence it seeks to spread rather than kill. It only lives if the host lives (see tapeworm/candiru analogies above) therefore it does what it can to keep its host alive.

And this is where I find myself. Bags under my eyes, swelling gut and jaundiced. Fingers chewed away to nubs, hair unkempt and nerves raw. My mood is afflicted and my heart palpitates. Sleep eludes me and I live in constant fear and apprehension of them, my plague. I wish it were different for harmony’s sake, I truly do. I wish I could live happily and harmoniously with people and lord knows I have tried. Unfortunately that just isn’t in the nature of a virus. There is no logic. The optimist in me hopes for something else, but my optimism is another disease in itself best saved for a future diatribe.

When Jesus Left Hollywood

It’s a shame to think that in the twenty first century in a country as progressive as the United States we still have to hear the war cry of racism at every turn. In this particular instance regarding the Oscars who, for the first time in whatever the fuck amount of years haven’t shown enough recognition to people “of color,” whatever that might mean.

In this country racism is alive and well, but not as a layman might expect: rather as business of sorts. A way to get people to think certain ways and do certain things – not always positive – with intended results. I realize now I should have said layperson, but frankly I don’t give a shit. Hate mongers of every stripe complain incessantly about all the repression and underrepresentation they feel; for them this is a land of fear, violence and oppression, unlike like Mexico, the Middle East and 99.9% of Africa to rattle off a few enlightened counterparts. People of all colors live in the U.S. as second class citizens to be beaten down, abused and oppressed.

To slump down to the tired and stupid argument, I would posit that they should go back to their own country. To take the higher road I would say (sorry ladies) stop being a bitch in this, your own country. We’re most of us immigrants here or of immigrant stock. The Irish, Jews, Germans, Catholics, Greeks, Portuguese, Lebanese, Inuit, Uzbekistani, Hondurans, Mannish, et al were all discriminated against at one time or another by those that came before them. You talk of slavery, I talk of the enslavement of the Jews (by Africans; Egyptians to be precise). That’s not to mention the Roman persecution of the Germanics, the Spanish persecution of alleged heretics, Hutu genocide of the Tutsi, and nameless, countless other inhumanities of man against man (again, sorry ladies).

We live in a world of humans and therefore as hopelessly flawed as humans. We can fight or die, sit silent or speak out. The problem with speaking out is that when too many idiots do it all at once then the air gets a little thick with bullshit. As much as the lack of colored folks nominated for Oscars keeps me up at night I’m glad that two first timers, Marcus Mariota and Cardale Jones (Mariota of U of Oregon being the first Polynesian to win the Heisman , and Jones of Ohio State being a previously at risk youth and third string quarterback to make history) were the first two “colored” quarterbacks to be in the first national college football championship. Sadly I didn’t consider how underrepresented Euro-American men were in that fantastic game. That’s college ball. To take a totally different angle, I don’t even need to mention our president of color who won not one but two elections by popular vote.

The more we sit back, pen and paper in hand and try to demarcate just what race does what and when, we as Americans are going to be fucked as a society. To quote De La Soul:

“See them Cubans don’t care what y’all niggaz do, Columbians ain’t never ran with your crew, Why you acting all spicy and sheisty, the only Italians you knew was icees”

The business of racism is the business of separation. Identity based on the anxiety of losing the nebulous core of the self. People eat, drink, shit, breathe and fuck regardless of where they came from. I would hope this wouldn’t be an issue anymore. Sure there are regrets and skeletons in the closet, but we all have them. If we were all to beat ourselves to death over the shitty things we’ve done, how would we grow as people? How could we grow as a society?

Racism and all other bigotry is always going to be a one way street in that it’s by its very nature polarizing. There is no room for a gray area (note the aforementioned color and the color of the human brain) so there will never be peace. I don’t call for any sort of bullshit, I would just posit the question: isn’t there enough real world shit to deal with – food, cancer, bills, age, insurance, relationships, to name a few – that worrying about who is underrepresented at the Oscars shouldn’t be an issue?

I’m sure the Academy is flawed and that perhaps life terms is a bit too long to cycle through enough diversity. I’m sure Cheryl Boone Isaacs hates black people. I’m sure that the Academy seeks to award talent, not just showing up (or sending out screeners late). But what do I know… I’ll leave off with this: with the possible exception of the Somali guy that played the pirate and lost all his money, almost all of those nominees are millionaires, or at least richer than you. Regardless of color.  And they always will be.

Lunch Break

The day the Wagstaff boy came in and said he’d found a little negro kid dead by the river we were all hunched over our lunches dreading getting back out in the heat to work. The village was just a few yards from the water and some of us went back with him where some of his buddies were standing guard over the body.

Sanchez and I had both been in the war and a dead body wasn’t anything particularly strange other than it’s always sad in a way to see a dead kid. He was wearing raggedy clothes and couldn’t have been more than maybe seven or eight. When we flipped him over Sanchez said Jesus, that it was no mayate at all, but a little Indian from Mexico. Some of the families had been in the area lately for field work and odd jobs. This must have been one of their kids.

What should we do, one of the boys asked? I told him to go fetch the cops and we would stay there. All three of the boys ran off and Sanchez and I crouched down to inspect the tiny dark face. Around his mouth was a crust of filth and snot caked on his nose; the small dead black eyes glazed over staring into space. Hard to think how they must live in those shitholes, Sanchez said. I nodded. What do you think did him in? I said I wasn’t sure, but best to not mess with the body and leave that to the cops.

Jake Nelson, who’d been sitting in his squad car by the park came back with the boys. He nodded a greeting; boys, he said. Hiya Jake, how’s things? He looked beat, which wasn’t strange since his wife just had a baby not too long ago. Okay, he replied. Don’t think I’ve got a good night’s sleep in six months though. What do we have here? Luke says it’s a negro? Indian, Sanchez corrected.

Jake crouched down over the body and felt the vitals as if there was any chance the kid could still be alive. Don’t think he’s been down here long, Sanchez said. Goddamn, he’s a filthy thing, isn’t he? Though it was doubtful, Jake checked to see if there was any clue that might lead to who the kid was. He told the boys to stand back and as he shifted the body to check the little pockets the ragged pants slipped down revealing the nakedness of a girl. Well I’ll be damned, Sanchez said.

Jake was quick to act. Get out of here and go find sheriff Lewis! He barked to Luke Wagstaff and his pals. And tell him to get the coroner out here too. The boys lingered momentarily, startled at the sudden order and confused as to what had just happened. Git! Jake repeated. The three of us didn’t say anything but it was obvious what had happened as we saw the dribble coming out of the little girl. Jesus, Sanchez whispered. Jake didn’t say anything and hiked the dirty trousers back up. We knew what he was thinking, it being that his kid was a daughter too.

You want us to hang around until they get back? I asked. Jake sort of shrugged indifferently, his eyes not leaving the body. Damndest thing, ain’t it? Can’t say I’ve ever come across this sort of thing… he trailed off. I noticed that the neck was darker than the rest of the skin and I had my ideas but I kept quiet. I could tell Sanchez wasn’t so sure what to do either which is why we were relieved when we heard them coming back down through the brush.

Well, I guess we better get going back to work now, Sanchez said. Jake and I both nodded, only he still hadn’t looked back towards us. Take care, Jake. I said. As we passed the sheriff and the coroner we nodded but didn’t say much since we didn’t know them the way we knew Jake. We just pointed down the hill and kept going on.

The View

The claim of a view from Catalina to downtown was bullshit. Maybe it was possible at sometime, but the smog usually made it so there was no way o see that far. Though right now it didn’t matter. It was night and the city spread out in front of him, a blanket of shimmering lights. It had take years to get used to this dump, let alone climb up the hill. But now he was up here and for the first time in over a decade, alone.

A drop of condensation fell from his glass onto his bare foot. Absently he looked down and was reminded how seldom he wore shoes or dressed in much other than shorts and a short sleeved shirt. Perhaps the view was largely a myth, but one thing for certain was that the weather… the goddamned weather was almost always exactly the same. As he fixed a fresh drink he thought about how ridiculous it was that people moved to Los Angeles for that, the weather. Of all the silly fucking things.

When he moved down he had come with nothing, just like most people. Unlike most people, however, he didn’t have a plan or aspirations. He came down for love and vaguely for a change of scenery. There were years cramped in that little apartment with a tight budget; the arguments bouncing off the walls, the noise from the street, the salad days. Funny how it seemed so hopeless back then and now at middle age there is plenty of space and money but no soul. No, now things were static just like the weather.

Going back to the window he wondered when the girl would show up. Doubtless late. They all showed up late and demanded too much and left a bigger hole than before they got there. That was the beauty of marriage, which he had to admit he still missed: the comfort of partnership. A partnership he dissolved as soon as he found his mortality in a few grey hairs. As simply and as stupidly as that, it was over and once the dust settled there was nothing more to be done about it. Now here he was, thinking about what it might be like to entertain a girl in her twenties for the first time in twenty years.

As if on cue the doorbell rang. He took a solid pull to brace himself and answered it. She stood there all perfume and make-up in an absurdly short dress and spiked heels. There was an almost costume quality to her outfit, but shit, that’s what they do nowadays. Oversexed children with something incomprehensible going on in their minds.

Right on time, come in! He said.

She brushed past him with confidence that only girls that look like that possess. An easy indifference in the absolute knowledge that they can have or do anything they want. Money couldn’t buy that confidence, though clearly it fed it.

Where can I put my clutch?

Wherever is fine. Can I get you a drink?

You have SkinnyGirl?


I guess white wine then and a straw if you have that.

She sat down on the couch and faced the city. Wow, this is really nice, the view. Bet you never get sick of it.

Yes, it’s nice. He handed her the glass of wine with a straw sticking absurdly out at a precarious angle.

You have some ice?

It was a ninety dollar bottle of sauvignon blanc and she wants a fucking straw and ice. He turned to fetch the ice, asking you have a hard time finding the place?

Not too bad. I used to see this guy had a place up here, but he didn’t have the view you have. It’s a really nice one.

He brought a small bowl with ice and having refreshed his drink for a fourth time sat down boldly close to her on the couch. For all his accomplishments, he’d never been able to shake off the crippling lack of confidence around women. He was that awkward teen again, just waiting to be rejected. The fact that it was his house and his couch and his booze and his view didn’t matter. This child still somehow held control. So how long you been in L.A.? he asked.

About two years I guess.

Like it?

It’s okay. I like the vibe and all but I dunno, I might check out Miami or maybe New York in another year or so. I haven’t decided.

Those are also expensive cities.

She looked at him quizzically, obvious that that aspect had never crossed her mind. Yeah, I guess so she said.

How’s the wine?

Good. I like it. Just had my teeth whitened and most people don’t know that white wine can stain teeth too. It’s cool the stuff you don’t know.

He took a pull of his drink and asked her what she wanted to do.

I don’t care, I was thinking maybe just stay in or something. We could order food, maybe watch some TV.

That didn’t sound like a bad idea. He wasn’t really in the mood for getting dressed up and calling a car to go down the hill. He didn’t want to run into anyone – not that this particular age discrepancy was anything out of the ordinary – he just didn’t want to make small talk. He glanced down at his father’s Rolex. Well it’s already eight o’clock. You have anything you’re craving?

Huh? Oh, I’m not really hungry, I just meant more if you were. I’ll have some more of this though.

He took her glass to the bar and called back. If you’re not hungry I’m fine. I probably have popcorn or something if you do get snacky later.

Snacky? Jeez, my dad says that all the time.


Yeah, it’s okay though.

You get along with your parents?

Yeah. I kinda miss being so far away, but it’s good I came out and they still help if I need it, y’know with money and stuff. I don’t want to talk about them though.

Tell me again why you moved out here? Naturally he already knew the answer, but the topic fascinated him.

I always wanted to be an actress.

I never understood that.

Well isn’t that why you came out? I mean that’s where you made your money, right?

Some of it, but I never was an actor.

Well, you know what I mean. What are you drinking?

An old fashioned.

You would drink an old fashioned! The wine was starting to loosen her up some. He thought back to the days when a glass or two of wine might have done something other than taste good.

I guess so, he said. Old fashioned guy drinking and old fashioned. Christ, had he just fucking said that? He felt his face flush hot, the teenage boy. Only she wasn’t looking at him.

You’re not that old. Of course, when you say stuff like that…

It sounded different in my head. I guess I’m still rusty with this kind of thing.

She turned back. What kind of thing?

This. Girls… dating, all of it.

She considered this and sipped her wine through its straw. She was beautiful. She had this fresh look to her that was supposed to make him feel young, but really just made him feel impossibly old.

You have a busy day tomorrow? She asked.

He shrugged. Every day is exactly the same. Busy enough. Can’t complain.

I should say not. She turned back out to the view, clearly lost in her own thoughts. He wondered what she was thinking about. I should say not. That sounded strange coming from her. Maybe she was smarter than he’d given her credit for. Maybe there was something else going on that he’d written off. Looking at her neck, her slender fingers and the curve of her breasts he wondered about this girl and what might be.

Then she said actually I have to meet some friends later, but first I wanted to show you something.

She put her glass down and stood up taking his hand. He took a final slug and set his glass down. Her hands were soft and the perfume was light but he felt drunker for it. She smiled and pecked him on the cheek and nibbled his earlobe.

So it’s like that, is it?

It’s like that, she responded.

She led him along the windows to the bedroom and pushed him back onto his ridiculously large bed. Everything was white, he thought. As the girl began a little striptease he wondered why every rich asshole in the hills has everything in white and he wondered when exactly he became one of them. Here he was, the exact thing he’d hoped he’d never become. All the way down to the girl.

You like what you see?

Uh huh, he answered thickly, his mouth dry. She wriggled out of her dress, her perfectly tan body lithe and firm. Heels on or off? She asked. He gestured that it didn’t matter. She lifted a heeled foot up between his legs and smiled as he leered at her waxed nakedness. She smiled, on then. Moving her leg back to the floor, she dropped to her knees and unzipped him as he leaned back and stared at the ceiling.

After they were done she rolled over and faced the window again. He couldn’t tell how much time had passed, maybe hours, but likely closer to one. She had been marvelous in a vaguely dreamlike pornographic way, the budding emotion he’d felt before now extinguished. One day I hope to have a place with a view like this, she said softly.

You sure you have to go? You can stay you know.

No, I have to get going. She rose from the bed and went to the bathroom. He heard the water running as she cleaned herself up and got back into her dress. A few minutes she came out as if nothing had happened. He hadn’t bothered to put on anything past shorts, his hands crossed self consciously over his little gut. You’re beautiful, you know that? He offered. She smiled slightly and crossed over to plant a peck on his forehead. Walk me out?

As he walked her to the front door he looked at her ass wiggling in the little dress and thought about how he could have never gotten any girls that looked like that before. Or maybe he could have had he tried. Better late than never, he supposed. She didn’t say anything until the foyer.

So how do you want to do this? Cash or PayPal?

I have cash. Old fashioned, remember? He took out his wallet and counted six hundred dollar bills and gave them to her.

You know, I like that you always have cash. That’s why you’re one of my favorites. Makes me feel rich. That and I could stare out that window forever. With that she gave his hand a little squeeze. See you again soon?

You bet. Have a good night. And be safe.

Jeez. There you go sounding like my dad again. Well, see you around. And then she was gone. As he walked back to the bar he could still smell her perfume in the air. Glancing down at the couch he could see little ripples in the leather where she had sat. He poured this one extra stiff and walked over to the window, alone again with his thoughts and the view.

Ted Talk Monologue – Disrupting, American Style

“I know for a lot of young people out there the idea of graduating college and having to start at the bottom is daunting at best. I know it used to cause me a lot of anxiety until it dawned on me: this is America, the land of innovation. Americans don’t just sit around waiting for fate to smile on them, they make their own luck which is why I’m here today.

It was my third year at Stanford and I was stoned with my friends playing Halo IV when I said: “You know what sucks? Transportation.” Sounds silly, right? But think about it: having to Uber to the airport and then waiting in line and having to sit next to people and wait some more. What if I don’t want to spend a day getting to Europe or New York even? And that’s flying. Now if you drive, forget about it. It was taking me like eight hours jut to get from Palo to Newport, which is why I would usually just fly. There had to be an easier way.

And that’s when the idea hit: teleporters! I did a quick Google search and learned that no one had made one yet, which frankly, sounded kinda nuts. I mean, how could nobody think to start a teleporter company and turn the whole transportation industry on its head? Think about it, you could be in California one minute and New York the next. Then you could go to London to have fish and chips or maybe to Taiwan for Chinese food and then be back in Cali in time for Jimmy Fallon!

I knew I had a golden ticket here, but now came the hard part. I needed money and scientists. I was able to scrape together $40 MM from friends and family and hired some Indian exchange students to get to work. We started off small, trying to teleport a hamster from one end of the room to the other, but the technology proved to be harder that we thought.  After about six months we had what amounted to basically a zipline that went from one end of campus to the other. At this point I started to lose hope, when I had my second epiphany.

It could take maybe even years to get a teleporter working right and by that time I’d be too old to really enjoy it. Why not disrupt another arena, one that’s been almost as problematic as transportation: communication!  If you can’t actually go to places that are far away without a hassle, then the next best thing is to talk to people that are far away and maybe even see images of stuff that’s far away. Telephones have been around for hundreds of years and people still use them. Why? What is this, Mexico?

Enter Vydeotalkk. The solution to my problem was right in front of my eyes – literally – the whole time. I changed the Indian’s focus to figure out a way people could talk to other people on their computers while being able to see them at the same time. The concept was easy, instead of a phone call, you just Vydeotalkk your friend and you can see what they’re wearing and stuff like that. It was the next technological revolution.

We spent the next month pioneering the technology and as of today, people are doing this all the time. There are competitors sure, but all good businesses need competition to stay lean. Currently we have a App in the works that will bring Vydeotalkk to your mobile device allowing you to see anyone anywhere while talking to them at the same time! And this is how I created my own luck. I still have about $32 MM of seed money in the bank and by the time I graduate, I can safely say I won’t ever have to worry about finding a job.

The conclusion here is this: sure it’s hard to get a job out there. Sure it seems like all the good ideas are taken and there might not be much of a future. To that I say bull. You don’t have to be rich or go to Stanford, you could even go to state school. Just think hard about what the world needs and then the money and the scientists will come. It is literally that easy.”

- Brylen Walch