A girl becoming a woman is not doing any studying for her business law class she takes en route to a Master’s degree. She drinks white wine tonight, and she listens to a record on the radio. She is irritated that she once read something about Billy Corgan’s lyrics not ‘holding up under close scrutiny.’
Now every time she hears them she can’t forget the line about the close scrutiny.
The bar lights of art, she supposes.
She exchanges the following with a male friend also engaged in an MBA program:
She: I’ve always put off getting into the Flaming Lips because I know their shit is all over the place. That said, I think “Yoshimi” is outstanding, and I was wondering if you could recommend another of their albums.
He: The Soft Bulletin is the best thing they’ve done. Great f’n album. I’ve got another one called Clouds Taste Metallic that aint half bad. A lot of the other older stuff is just crap.
She: Did you like “Yoshimi”?
He: Oh yeah. I’d still say Soft Bulletin is better, but I definitely dig Yoshimi. All the hippie/jamband kids are getting into the Lips now because they blew everyone away at Bonnaroo last summer. Apparently they played like a 4-hour set, including a cover of Dark Side of the Moon while the Wizard of Oz played on a big screen behind them. I’ve seen them a couple times now. They’re big on the theatrics.
These are white people, you think. They must be white people.
Or, these are the people who suggested taking the skinheads bowling? No, they were from Out West, and California is deceptively nonwhite.
The color doesn’t matter, as long as you are not applying to one of these fancy business schools in the University of California system. Well, color doesn’t legally matter, but it still matters.
It always matters.
You remember when you, too, synthesized life through Bukowski. The screams from the balcony now but solitary whispers on empty streets. You learned the word libertine, thought of it as a hat you’d like to try on.
Back when finishing sentences with prepositions was unthinkable.
The Islamists are high-fiving outside the dirty Kandahar hideouts because the government did as the Islamic terrorists predicted: They decided to put the handguns on the airplanes, the advertising machine reports. The installation of weaponry on airliners is done, they say, because religious terrorists have a tough go of it at the security checkpoints. By having the handguns on the airplanes in advance, we will save them the trouble.
And the advertising machine asks the skittish people to be on the lookout – Get this, they say – for skinny brown-skinned men with almanacs and maps. An impending raid at Rand McNally will hopefully secure the United States from future cartographical attacks by fans of the television show Jeopardy, which cynics point out is hosted by a Canadian.
A writing staff for a late-night show kicks around jokes about the power of knowledge.
A child molester continues to terrorize the United States, in the small towns and sprawling urban centers. Watch the life drain from the 5-year-old. See the NASDAQ rise, oblivious to the sadness.
They say Cisco has too much cash, that the minority owners of the company have no business knowing how the CEO compensates himself. Knowledge is powerful. The advertising machine says, Did you know Cisco was founded a woman?
You think of the freedom in Bukowski, about how a man who refuses to acknowledges his tormentors is forever free of them. You wonder about short and sweet versus long and arduous.
You put up an umbrella. Kiss a loved one, allowing your lips to press fully into theirs. You grab hold, holding on to all you have.
Go to the box office, pay your money. These are the steps you take for admittance. The sign on the side says something about NO ADMITTANCE, but you know it does not apply to you.
No admittance is for graduate programs at schools with names like Berkeley and Columbia, not for a man named Tampa singing a tune about Denver. The Denver blues. The Prop. 2 blues.
Palo Alto really is like the Radiohead song. Menlo Park is even worse (better).
But remember to bring your VISA card.
Partly cloudy, prepare for rain.
There is one day and two commitments. How do you choose? They both involve friends, and you’re calculating enough to weigh which are better friends. With age, the only friends you keep are the good ones, so the argument is relatively pointless. Where do you go?
For sushi in the Castro?
Skinny thighs look better on men than women. It’s true, he says, not trying to use the truth as a means. It is a fact, he says again, turning his attention back to the newspaper he was halfheartedly reading.
The girls play with the drag queens and their perfect bodies.
You want the look, check out the Afro and D-cups on page 26. Keep you regular for a week that. And no matter what Tampa says, you can get that stuff ‘round here.
A cow gets sick, and someone’s political career is ruined because he didn’t report the bovine fever – it’ll clear up in no time, don’t wanna worry the market.
Instead, eat plenty of cereal to clear out the polyps. Historical trends show that 100 years ago people died mostly from preventable diseases. Today, we die from ailments we give ourselves.
Another sucker just born.
We go home, cry, and want to die.
But there’s gotta be more, she says. You know it doesn’t make sense, but the right woman smoking is knee-bucklingly sexy. Ask the Supersuckers, who play live in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve.
The fuck they care about terrorism.
This ain’t no movie, ain’t no Mekhi Phifer. Detroit the Motor City and Murder City, the American microcosm. White flight, black despair and rage. White resentment, black defiance. The city is black, yet they try to tell you it’s “Hockeytown.”
You say, Honkytown.
Gangs of hardened young criminals play handball in Chicano Park and at the courts at San Diego High School. Stereos and car alarms, the kinda vans that don’t get the cops bent – bubbled and bouncing, these aren’t the tools of the rapist.
Here, Detroit or San Fran. Come hard, or don’t come at all.
Christmas night, and the man cannot be concerned about airline cancellations in Paris or terrorist plots underway in the United States of America. Someone asks, Isn’t there a Clash song with run rabbit run in it?
The al Qaeda network has long considered Las Vegas to be one of its top targets for a strike because it sees the city as a citadel of Western licentiousness.
Bankrobber, someone says.
Do you know any sites for Jets to Brazil tab? They are out there, if you keep looking.
Music is everywhere for the holidays, and someone else asks if the Outkast song will be enough to save the planet. More than one white person suggests it may be.
The rain and cold occlude us, but we are still out there. Whatever the story, it is a holiday in the United States, and if you’re on the job you’re getting at least time and a half. Even the security guards driving golf carts around barren malls. Forget about next year, wait until tomorrow.
A vacuum cleaner for your thoughts.
Dress nicely, and listen to a good tune. Or, feel good about the way you are dressed, and listen to a good record.
Look out for one another. Don’t try to scare anyone. The world would be a better place if you gave a little of your wonderful self. This is what they tell, but can it be true?
And will we ever know?
Merry Christmas – happy holidays – to you and yours, you think. Sleep until the skies clear.
Start again, doing what you do best.
Watch the girl make the corn beef sandwiches with her fake nails. Four at a time. Bread, bread. Mayo, mayo. Beef, beef. Lettuce, lettuce.
Her father makes the deliveryman pull out and display each milk, orange juice and non-diary creamer in the crates. He goes down the invoice, ticking each one off as the deliveryman checks his watch.
The girl with the sandwiches doesn’t look up when she takes an order. The three of them with the detached financial interest of streetwalker.
A man folds blankets while the dogs bark outside. The birds click and cluck above, swirling above the demented canines. The man has sworn off the advertising machine. No more will they poison me, he tells himself. It passes from me to her to them …
Let’s all drink from the same cup.
See how they like it in Hong Kong, Mississippi. Looking for a reason to belong. Pit bulls without leashes. Old Saints jersey on the man pumping gas. Inglorious pasts them all.
Young people in college are Republicans, making cookies designed to offend and spark debate. Young Republicans growing up into old Republicans. Yes, white people do use the word nigger
when black people aren’t around, but don’t think black folks don’t know.
Just ask Mr. Nigga in the first-class seat to Paris.
Posters splattered across the post office beg GOD BLESS AMERICA. The unsmiling clerks are the real American heroes, they tell us. They had the misfortune of encountering the poison in the mail.
Do you want it to get there tomorrow?
The advertising machine persists with the talk of terrorism, and someone says, I’d like to see what these little cockroaches would do face to face with the Terminator. Huh? That’s what I thought.
Outside the post office a 70-year-old man opens the door of his sports car right into the adjacent sport utility vehicle. The 30-year-old driver of the SUV honks his horn, gets out and comes around to see the damage.
The older gent gathers his belongings and says, Sorry, I don’t think it hit very hard.
As he starts to walk toward the post office, the younger man tells him to be more careful.
I am careful. Sorry.
The younger man says he should be more careful when he parks next to the SUV. The older man pushes past him and heads into the GOD BLESS AMERICA post office. The arrogance in piety all around at the holiday time.
Stephen Malkmus, the architect of the greatest half-assed band of all time, writes a love song to the late bald actor Yul Brynner. In a room he writes the song, and he writes another about a man in a cover band with an 18-year-old neo-hippie girlfriend headed for law school.
These matters are not the concern of terrorists or policymakers. The advertising machine says the orange is ‘serious orange.’ It’s serious orange now, not like all the past oranges.
Nor of the man whose SUV was lightly tapped by the door of sports car driven by a septuagenarian. Having lost the battle with the older man, the young man lingers in the parking lot, closely inspecting his carriage and rubbing the paint with his hand.
But no one is left watching. They all saw the older man trump him, and the young man is hollering into the wind.
What did the man say those years ago?
By persuading others, we convince ourselves.
There’s upsetting on the streets of Kingston, but you wouldn’t know it at the white-sand resorts over the hills. The real Jamaica. Come to Jamaica, come in Jamaica, the ads say.
White man, be careful, remember your safe European home. Mr. Brown means business.
On the advertising machine, there is news of earthquake weather again in California. Some people die. Their families have their holidays forever ruined. Absolutely ruined.
It was Mother Nature working out a small kink, a deep-tissue massage for the grand ol’ dame. A ball of water and mud, spinning faster than you can imagine. Her malignant inhabitants forget they are her guests. Instead, they try to control and dominate their fellow tumors.
The shooting was justified. It always is. The guy had a pitchfork and he’d been drinking paint thinner all day. Could’ve bench-pressed a Volkswagen. Funny how those who criticize the cops are the ones who say joining The Force would be the last thing they’d ever do.
You take the officer-assistance call in the Fifth Ward or Cabrini Green or Valencia Park.
Or in Kingston.
See how you stack up against Duppy the Conqueror and the rest of Trenchtown’s finest. Hell, Lee Perry was only about 5 feet tall, and he did bench-press Volkswagens.
Airplanes crisscross the sky through invisible vectors, and the families on the ground plead that theirs will not be the airliner that is hastily converted into a weapon of mass destruction. Something is coming, the advertising machine says. Your government will do everything to protect you.
The control playbook being run at maximum efficacy.
They say that there is chatter like there was before.
The man on the advertising machine says that something has spooked your government. This is why they put on the brave face. The stomach-churning wait for the inexorable.
Until the time of his death, no man can be sure of his courage, a Frenchman once wrote.
Tell that to the teeming streets of Cairo. See how they respond in Kingston.
The airliners will not be pointed at Santo Domingo or Marrakesh.
Bigger fish to fry, pet.
The dogs don’t know anything about Internet settings, The Clash or heightened terror levels. They know sniffing and peeing, eating and sleeping, chewing on balls and loving their owners.
It is a dog’s life, they say.
Cold wind blows through the Northeast, but change is not on the horizon. As it was before, so will it go on, and the traits are passed on to the children. We will say, I wonder how we got so fucked up? The answer will be right in the mirror.
Men in their 30s are on the radio, eulogizing the great Joe Strummer. On the same day, millions of well-dressed Latinos flock to churches. Other fill themselves with football viewing. Millionaire players and billionaire owners. Those who can’t see past the commerce in the pastime are called cynics or relics.
Taxpayer dollars. Civic pride in having a team. Build them a stadium, and do they let you in for free since you constructed the stadium? Or do they charge you more for what they call a better product.
A homeless man by the bright golden arches lulls gently in the gray December breeze. A daughter nearby tells her father a lie about meeting someone at the mall. She is 10, and the meeting was not arranged on the Internet. She has the name of a great jazz singer.
Everyone wants to know who is to blame.
This is simplistic, reductive. No one asks, they say, how it can all be fixed.
They want peril in the homeland. A neat Irish whiskey and off to bed with you. Let us worry about the grown-up problems. Kiss your kids and tell them everything will be all right.
See you in Topeka or Tuolumne, where they don’t know Miguel and Maria. But they know of their universal disconnect.
A couple of weeks before the end of 1999 -- Dec. 14, 1999, to be exact -- an interesting series of events happened at a border crossing in the small hamlet of Port Angeles, Washington. That day, the last car off the ferry from Victoria, B.C., was a rented green Chrysler sedan driven by an Algerian man named Ahmed Ressam, a globe-trotting Islamist who recently had traveled from France to Montreal to Afghanistan and Pakistan to South Korea and Los Angeles and back to Canada before boarding the ferry bound for the United States of America.
A Customs official at the border crossing was a woman named Diana Dean. She questioned Ressam after his itinerary showed that he had come from Vancouver and was going to Seattle, a trip that would not, under normal circumstances, involve a ferry or Port Angeles.
Inspector Dean later said, "After working on this job awhile, you get a knack for knowing when something isn't right."
As he was questioned and agents searched his car, Ressam panicked, and he had good reason to: In the trunk of the car was 134 pounds of heavy-duty chemicals that Ressam planned to use in an explosive act of terrorism at Los Angeles International Airport. When the chemicals were discovered, Ressam tried to run.
"One second I have a hold of him," said Senior Customs Inspector Mark Johnson. "The next, I'm standing there with an empty coat."
Ressam was caught, arrested and later found guilty of nine counts of terrorism in a Los Angeles court. Said then-President of the United States Bill Clinton shortly after Ressam's arrest:
"Today and for the foreseeable tomorrows we ... will face a fateful struggle between forces of integration and harmony and the forces of disintegration and chaos."
Ressam, who became known as the Millennium Bomber or some variation, did not get to carry out his stated mission. That was before the real beginning of the new millennium in the United States of America.
They never went away, they just changed the way they look. They cut their hair and went to law school, got jobs in legal at Monsanto. Some went to work for Procter & Gamble in Ohio.
One year of undergrad at Wellesley is about $35,000. You ask anyone who went there, and they'll tell you it was worth it.
You think, of course it was, you
didn't pay for it.
They go into Boston to meet the boys of MIT and Harvard. Millions of college kids in that historic snow-white town. Beantown, they call it. Or the Hub. Because of all the old piers that jutted out like spokes. The hub at the middle, on the other side of the Charles.
The airport there is infamous for the video still of before. The two Middle Eastern men passing through the gate on their way to meet destiny. They were to change the world that day in the fall of 2001, long after the hysteria of Y2K'd been put to rest.
More than 3,000 souls lost.
They say it's hypocritical to ask something of China but not of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom in the desert. So much glowing sand.
If each grain of sand represents the maximum of love quantified, then I love you with all the grains of sand on the earth. Look at how much your hand can hold, all the tiny colored grains. Then think about Saudi Arabia, or even the Mojave.
Out where they used to go with their guitars and depressants there is a U.S. government site restricted to citizens of the United States. It's behind closed doors, and they used to laugh about on their way back into civilization. Spooky stuff, they'd say.
Back before they cut their hair and took the LSATs.
It is the tyrant's fallacy to think that intimidation alone can produce security.
She hasn't slept this well in years, and now the act is an important, well-thought ritual. Fastidiously cleaned sheets, cool glass of water on the nightstand. The shower before, with the nice soaps and extra bout of conditioner.
The alone time.
Some reading. Teeth thoroughly brushed. Pillow religiously turned for cool softness.
She is addicted to the ritual. Habitual.
No longer out late at night, remembering only the waking up. Smoking cigarettes, sleeping in lipstick. She shudders at the idea of going to bed without a shower. With cotton mouth. Without reading and taking some alone time for herself beneath the sheets.
She thinks she is growing up. Has grown up.
People say they notice a difference. It's true.
These are the voices from across the land.
In a desert village a purported tyrant is found hiding in an ice chest. Like the fugitive mail bomber he is bearded and described in media accounts as “haggard-looking.” The television people talk about what the capture means. The stock market, where rhetoric and PR die hard deaths, does little to react.
Agency capture is what it’s called when industries overtake the agencies meant to regulate them.
A ticket to see the Rancid punk show in San Diego still only costs only $15 after all these years. This, their fans say, is why the Easy Bay quartet sell out the all-ages venue next door to the sports arena. Some of the fans go to see if the band has “sold out” because one of the members wrote songs for a popular pop singer.
In Detroit, the leader of the Lions professional sports organization repeatedly yells “faggot” at a former employee. Actually, it’s not in the Detroit that you and I think of but in tonier outposts around the city where the man works. They say, take it easy, he’s an ex-football player, that’s how these guys are.
A human recourses administrator sends out e-mail about the upcoming company Christmas party and receives negative feedback for not highlighting the non-denominational nature of the party. Excuse me, she writes in the next e-mail, the company HOLIDAY PARTY.
No, this is a joke e-mail, you think. They are making fun of American sensitivities. They are making fun of people who are not white and Christian and expect the great Melting Pot to accept all culture and ideas.
A football game will begin on a Monday night, and millions of dollars will be wagered. There will be several winners, including those who take the bets.
The kids keep studying for their finals, preparing to enter the world of adults and see how the hard work will pay off. Watch them burn fantastic.
Don’t look over your shoulder. Well, maybe take a peek and see if you like what’s coming.
CHORUS – MUSIC ONLY
B D A
TEN WHOLE YEARS YOU COULD DO NO WRONG
A U.S. PUPPET, YOU WERE BUILT UP STRONG
AGAINST IRAN, YOU WERE REAGAN’S MAN
DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS ONLY A SHORT-TERM PLAN
IN 1990 CAME THE FATEFUL DAY
THE WORLD CHANGED WHEN YOU TOOK KUWAIT
A E A
WITH NO COLD WAR AND A TON OF OIL, YOU’RE SCREWED
IS IT ALL JUST A GAME?
IT’S OBVIOUS WE HAVE NO AIM
THE USA DIDN’T HAVE A WAR
LO AND BEHOLD HERE COMES DESERT STORM
BUSH THE ELDER COULDN’T GET YOU
SO HE LEFT IT UP TO GEORGE W.
MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE A NIGHTMARE
TO SEE THE KID LEAVE THE HIGH CHAIR
JUST YOUR LUCK, THAT HAD TO SUCK, FOR YOU
REPEAT VERSE 1
IS IT ALL JUST A GAME?
IT’S OBVIOUS WE HAVE NO AIM
100 MILLION BOMBS IN VAIN
LOOKS LIKE IT’S GONNA ACID RAIN
LOVED YOUR WORK WITH CHARLIE SHEEN
THERE’S NO SADDAM IN TEAM
Like a 900-pound cat, the company splays out on its side while we greedily suckle its engorged teats.
Today is the holiday party, and they make fun of people who think it’s inaccurate to call it a “Christmas” party. So goddamned sensitive these days. Don’t they know this is America?
The United States, that is.
Students still shuffle into the classrooms, taking finals that they think will prepare them to go and get drunk at the holiday party. If they’re lucky, they’ll hook up with one of the dirty 30s from the smoking circle.
You just try to get out of there as fast as your food will digest. You work, you go home.
The men laughing and giving the speeches are the ones with all the options, the ones extra excited by how well the stock is doing. They make sure to have the holiday party on payday, so the “troops” will be cheerful.
Watch them drink and shine.
Be careful on your way out.
And don’t forget to wipe the milk from your chin.
A person called Darcy was careless with his heart, and now a woman named Carrie is going to pay for Darcy’s carelessness. Though she doesn’t know it; she’s just at the bar drinking beer with her roommates.
She can’t see him outside in the cold, watching through the smoky window. Unlike in Manhattan and California, you can still smoke in bars in the Heartland.
The trooper driving by doesn’t see him either.
A graduate student in Bloomington studies late, tracing the connection the town has to John Mellencamp’s pianist. He was arrested for doing bad things with children in Thailand.
So much prostitution in Bangkok that archeologists study the place. Brothels by the square inch. Love you long time indeed, but maybe not so much after.
At the ranches in Nevada, it costs $5 a minute. The guys who go there joke about how it pays to be fast. Or doesn’t. They say one-pump chump.
In the restroom, Carrie is drunk. More drunk than her roommates know. Their attention is on the guy who just walked in, his jeans snug as he whispers with the bartender. It just looks like a whisper under the Steve Miller Band.
Take the money and run.
He laments that the kids today don’t drink egg creams anymore. The kids think they’ve passed him by.
Late at night, when the notes of the piano can’t be heard above the din of nightlife down below, he pecks out his tunes. Not often does he play with one hand, listening to the call and response of the keys. He knows what he’s after, and he likes the bass notes in the left hand.
The sweet simplicity of an egg cream.
Blues for Morris Park.
His children say he plays
the piano, and they have no idea there’s much more to it. There’s a communion there, what he calls a happy suicide.
The art is in the creation, children, he thinks, not on the video channels. Melody is his muse, and when the keys come together as they are fated, it truly is transcendent.
Like hitting a baseball just right.
The creation within, as close as he comes to thinking of a higher power. Lord, there must be something that allows me to do this.
The street rarely gets quiet, and in those hours between 3-5 a.m., the cops keep things buzzing by racing around the building in their search for customers. The finest.
Day will come, and he will return to the American world of commerce and spite, immigration and children. The cycle continues. His contributions unheard but unmistakable.
The eternal toil of the solitary man.
The plunder of foreign lands is a profession as old as the oldest profession. Black gold to be mined near Lake Maracaibo, and a man so committed to his beliefs that he chained himself to an oil tanker in the sea.
They were going to shoot him to get him down.
In the theater the Caraquenos
march on the presidential palace, outraged their democratic senses have been tricked. On an island, their hero awaits with black coffee and the Bolivarian dream. Not until he descends from the heavens aboard a helicopter will the masses be freed.
More than 60 percent of Caracas residents live in the slums that pile up in the hills that surround the super-city. It is a true South American metropolis.
Don’t go out after dark.
Can it be dicier than D.C. or Philly, or a wrong turn in Baltimore?
, my friend. It is not advisable, for your safety.
Across the sea is Port-of-Spain. Not many people stop too long here in Trini, one of the adopted homes of the great tongue of Naipaul.
The red dot on the Indian woman’s head? He said it means “empty.”
They gave him a Nobel, like the Colombian Garcia-Marquez, a figure unmatched in sway and brilliance by Chavez. A man of the people, friend of the shipwrecked sailor.
Expensive sand on Isla Margarita, off the coast of Caracas, away from the petroleum troubles. Rumland.
Sweet thoughts and sweet people.
There were complications in surgery, and your chest has gone empty. All the things there weren’t time for. The things that could’ve been done, said.
The nurse at her station talks quietly on the phone, smiling behind her hand. It’s a personal conversation, perhaps with one of her loved ones, and she’s careful to not show too much happiness.
She sees you and knows the situation.
Complications. We don’t know right now. Touch and go.
All the clichés, but straightforward is how these medical types tell it. It’s inherent in the word.
So it goes for another Monday. Three buses, a trolley and a train.
All that work, that devotion to a ritual, and you die of a heart attack in Rome.
The pickup truck with the ANYONE BUT GORDON sticker pulls up in front of the cold apartment building as day breaks. Inside the cab, coffee and cigarettes are already going. The man comes out and gets into the car.
“You bring gloves?” The driver asks.
The man puts his hands up as proof. These men have a skill set you can’t acquire in an online class at your local community college.
If everything goes right, no one will get hurt. You hope no one gets hurt.
Across the country, in the still-dark sky of the Southwest, work continues on another cross-border tunnel for the coyotes
. Nacio Guzman smokes in the dry coldness of the winter morning. Six more months of this shit, he thinks, watching the perros
attack the earth.
Someday the sun will come for Nacio.
Several people wake with hangovers in the Belgian city of Leuven, mostly students and those who get to sleep with them. Many, many Stellas last night. Ein, twi …
Solitary men with firearms watch the highways, triggers poised, self-aggrandizement run amok.
Another day, we move on.
Classes are available over the Internet, and you can get credits without ever physically meeting your instructor. You can teach and grade students without ever seeing them. The studies say these classes don’t teach so much as move people along. They learn only for the timed tests they take on the computer and the papers they submit via e-mail.
And Lola runs past the Reichstag, arms high and figure realistic for a woman her age.
In the mid-1990s, you’d find little pieces of paper downtown that hinted at the Oklahoma City bombing being REICHSTAG ’95! There was a number you could call, and the phone was not answered by a Latino.
Or a Jew.
The classes on the Internet play at progressive interactive learning by having the students participate in graded discussions designed to see how much they know about something they were to have read. The guidelines are strict: Be civil, and don’t introduce religion into the discussions. That’s the hard part, keeping God out of it.
At what age does a person first hear a Jew joke?
At what age does a person stop telling a Jew joke?
For many black males, a prison bit is a rite of passage, and it’s unlikely that famous heiresses feel the same way.
Are created equal.
Lola keeps on running, red as the wind. Berlin has changed over the years, but probably less than you’d think. Frankfurt is a nice city, too. There is good jazz in Berlin.
In Hamburg, the terrorists worked on things, fearing the strong Teutonic women with their long muscles and no-bullshit attitudes.
Before they flew the planes into the skyscrapers.
After they took the Internet classes.
In the skies above the Heartland, the vows of a Christian marriage are broken aboard an American Airlines flight from Newark. It is known that the aircraft is the great social experiment, that strangers reveal things their spouses and siblings don’t know because of the safe anonymity. It’s easy.
In a Bergen County cul-de-sac, she is watching something on television with the children before they go to sleep. The dishwasher hums in the kitchen, one of the dogs is asleep at the slider. She thinks of him up in the sky, registers the familiar anxiety that comes with each trip he’s taken since that Tuesday morning in September of 2001.
The television flickers relentlessly at her stony face. Literally, her eyes glaze. It is when she blinks them that he crosses her mind, up high in the sky on the American Airlines flight west. He always puts on too much aftershave.
On the flight, his breath is stale, but he doesn’t care.
Bullets tear through the sky, sped from the hands of madmen.
They shoot while you pump your gas, walk to school, talk on the phone. What has happened to us? Where did we go, and how did the line get so smudged. The fringe is now in the front yard.
Guns don’t kill, people do. Guns don’t kill, people do. Guns don’t kill, people do.
People don’t kill guns.
Guns kill people.
To read a book along the river is to risk your life.
A drive in the country could be your last action.
Where did we go? How did this happen?
flew the airplanes into the skyscrapers to kill the people at work at their desks, flirting and making money?
Can we get back?
Can we try to start?
Watch out for the bullets, especially when you go outside.
If you are inside, stay away from the windows. We just tell it like we see it.
Stay low and keep firing.
Fugazi summer with the sensitive boy not like all of the others. Why can’t they all just be themselves? And who’s telling them to act like they do, with all that macho guy shit?
I guess the answer is They are
. They tell it to each other.
But this one is different, I tell you. He doesn’t say the word chick
, and he holds my hand around his friends.
And when I’m around his friends he doesn’t act different.
Something is on the stove, and you can’t wait to eat. The simplicity of life: eat, sleep, breathe.
You decide to revert to these. I will go with you, and we can soar along three minor chords, over and over and over.
The dogs, too. They set out ahead, dual sentries into the long night. We must take care of ourselves, of each other, of our host.
The long night will get longer before the dawn, that much is certain, and we hope to have Maria and Miguel with us, their difficulties subsided. Their lips again relaxed.
We have a lot of work to do. The dark spots of the planet call. In South Africa a female is as likely to get raped as she is to learn how to make the words on the page come to life.
Watch that Soweto child bloom from the unforgiving soil.
Into a Chicago housing project that is not the Wells but close. She knows she can do it, and her will is strong.
Connect with her and see what it is really like to live.
The 16- and 15- and 14- and 13- and 12-year-olds are having sex for the first time – half of them without “protection” – and the parents are losing their minds trying not to think about it.
The trucks get bigger and bigger, and littering has become patriotic.
Sweet girls have soft mouths, and so do the girls who aren’t so sweet.
My favorite DJ wasn’t on the air, and I couldn’t figure out why. What happened? Where’d you go? There was no one to talk to. I was by myself.
And it’s cold sleeping alone.
Terrorists have been spotted at Cherbourg.
At the time the herald reached me, those years ago, I had no idea where Cherbourg was. Now, I have only a slightly better idea where it is, and I think there was a movie that had to do with the umbrellas of Cherbourg.
There was also a movie set at Mont-Saint-Michel. In it was the actor from “Law & Order” and Liv Ullmann. Also the guy who was Tom Hanks’ rival in “Big.”
The movie was called “Mindwalk,” I think.
There were no terrorists in it other than Descartes. Maybe Montaigne.
I really knew not of terrorists until Allende and South America. El Chinito
and the Washington bullets. The heart bleeds in el Zocalo
, and the skeletons run free on the metro.
Don’t go outside at night, they said.
But in Cuernavaca it’s okay. Drink the salty beer and forget the world’s fears. The inequities.
The sun’ll come up tomorrow.
Maria and Miguel argue outside in the fog, and my breath looks like exhaust. There is no bitterness or despair in me anymore. I am clean, and I am committed to you.
I will not leave one word out. You will know the whole story, I promise.
You can see the dogs’ breath, too, but they don’t seem to notice the fog. Briefly and independent of one another do they turn their heads to the couple on the street, the Spanish imploring.
The indie girl listens in her car to something that sounds a little like Bjork or Joni Mitchell, but also could be Sigur Ros or something else. She is indie, no doubt, and just the other day she was in a tête-à-tête with a gentleman caller of her own. Through the window, their body language was unmistakable.
It was like a series of still photographs laid out or shuffled very quickly like a deck of cards or cells of animation. Embrace, pull away, cross arms, look at the ground.
The dogs didn’t notice them.
Maria and Miguel have stopped. An engine in the fog reluctantly turns over, but I can’t tell if one or both of them got in the vehicle. I hope they did.
When it's wet outside, the dogs' paws track mud into the house, and the prints look exactly like icons of dog paws.
Outside, a tweaker woman pounds the chest of a man as they lean next to a beat-up SUV.
Two minutes later, I look out and see the man hugging the woman, his head above her shoulder and looking into the distance.
Litter is everywhere. People just don't care enough to put trash in a can, and that's a societal problem involving complex issues of representation, pride and rebellion, I think.
As ever, the Washington Mutual Web site is down.
My baby is on a plane, and she is about to begin the first of two legs of a cross-country journey.
Graduate students grade papers and deduct points if word counts are not met.
Cooks in restaurants yell at each other, breaking balls in Spanish before the lunch rush comes.
The Mel Gibson movie "Ransom" is still going and appears as if it will never end. Someone, somewhere, watches is defiant self-torture.
And, still, only Kobe and that young woman know what happened in the Colorado hotel room.
rusticate \RUHS-tih-kayt\, intransitive verb:
To go into or reside in the country; to pursue a rustic life.
TOP NBA PLAYER JERSEYS
1. LeBron James, Cavaliers
2. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
3. Tracy McGrady, Magic
4. Allen Iverson, 76ers
5. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
6. Jason Kidd, Nets
7. Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers
8. Paul Pierce, Celtics
9. Allan Houston, Knicks
10. Tim Duncan, Spurs
11. Vince Carter, Raptors
12. Latrell Sprewell, Wolves
13. Kevin Garnett, Wolves
14. Rasheed Wallace, Blazers
15. Gary Payton, Lakers
I am sorry I have been absent over the last few days. I am actually out on sick leave.
It seems I was infected with Influenza A while in New Mexico, and subsequently a
secondary bacterial infection. That teaches me for not getting the flu shot! (Especially
since my diabetes causes me to be immune impaired.) I am trying to check the site
again daily and hope everything is running well with each of you. Thanks for your
patience and understanding. (There are no substitute professors for Internet sections.)
This is a touching story
about a man trying to make sense of his son's death.
White House version of mid-air exchange disputed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - British Airways says that none of its pilots made contact with President George W. Bush's plane during its secret flight to Baghdad, contradicting White House reports of a mid-air exchange that nearly prompted Bush to call off his trip.
Honor Verrier, a spokeswoman for British Airways in North America, said on Monday two BA aircraft were in the area at the time and neither radioed the president's plane to ask if it was Air Force One.
"We have spoken to the British Airways captains who were in the area at the time and neither made comments to Air Force One nor did they hear any other aircraft make the statement over the radio," Verrier said in response to a question from Reuters.
The White House had no immediate comment on the discrepancy.
Bush aides recounted with excitement last week the moment during the flight to Baghdad when they said a BA pilot thought he spotted the president's blue and white Boeing 747 from his cockpit.
"Did I just see Air Force One?" the pilot radioed, according to the White House.
There was a pause. Then came the response from Air Force One: "Gulfstream 5" -- a much smaller aircraft.
As one of Bush's aides recounted, the BA pilot seemed to sense that he was in on a secret, and replied: "Oh."
The Foot in Mouth Award
This award, which we first gave in 1993, is for a truly baffling comment.
The 2003 winner is United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for comments in a press briefing.
'Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know.'
"It's disgusting, heartbreaking what they've done," said Mary Koenig
, whose husband, Gerry Koenig of Staten Island's Rescue 5 squad, ditched her and their two kids for Madeline Bergin, the widow of his friend and firehouse mate, John Bergin, after the World Trade Center attacks.
They are our brothers, these freedom fighters. . . . They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance. We cannot turn away from them, for the struggle here is not right versus left; it is right versus wrong.
Ronald Reagan. Speech, 1 March 1985, to Conservative Political Action Conference, Washington, D.C., on the Nicaraguan contra fighters.
tutelary \TOO-tuh-lair-ee; TYOO-\, adjective:
Having the guardianship or charge of protecting a person or a thing; guardian; protecting; as, "tutelary goddesses."