Friday, March 28, 2014

Music: The Isolationist

Here's an older track called the Isolationist. The recording is nicely layered with a rushing feel due to my inability to keep up with the click track. Kind of a folk/pop/punk number. Click here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I'm Working On: Apophenia

Chapter One of Apophenia, a work in progress.

This image came up when I googled apophenia, along with a surprising amount of porn.

Home 8/13/08
I have the gambler’s fallacy; that is, I am always seeing patterns in random information, patterns that seek to deceive and rule the thoughtless mind. For example: on my ride home from class, I, Leona Elizabeth Chaney, a twenty-two-year-old woman studying Creative Writing at Hoover University, decided that it had been way too long since I’d experienced an unpleasant incident on the commuter bus, and my good luck was soon, therefore, to run out. I pulled the handle and shouted to the driver and nearly sprinted through the doors. He gave me a look, a fat, greedy stare, his jowly whiskers undulating as he brayed some unintelligible complaint through blubbery lips. I flipped him the bird and started walking quickly, my hood up, the cracked sidewalks deserted, nighttime leaving only ghosts and oddballs like me. The houses on this street were condemned, but you could hear people moving inside, and lights flickered from behind boarded windows, and there was always the smell of something burning. I shouldn’t have been walking down this street; that was the conventional wisdom. It was a rough neighborhood, and I was by all appearances a vulnerable young woman. But there were more weirdos on the bus than the street in my experience, and this was my neighborhood, and I didn’t care if it was dilapidated and inhabited by meth-heads. I grew up with these meth-heads. We played together on the playground, broke bottles together, smoked cigarettes and drank beer together. The first boy I ever kissed, Danny Aronofsky, turned into a fine meth-head and an upstanding citizen. These are my people, I guess, is what I’m saying. I’m more scared of the ones that I don’t know.
            It’s ten o’clock at night, and as I pass the Dupont house I see the Conan twins pumping iron in their front yard like a bunch of freaks. Dave is shirtless, his muscled torso glistening in the cool air as his brother Arnold slaps him repeatedly in an effort to get him pumped. “Easy weight, easy weight, easy weight!” he screams, tossing his disheveled surfer’s hair from side to side, his bull-like neck taut with pulsating veins. The Conans have dragged a squat rack out into the middle of their grassless lawn, and Dave is crouched beneath the weights, his eyes facing down, his legs bulging out of their cut-off jean shorts; after a final slap, he steps up and takes the barbell on his back. I count five forty-five pound plates on each side—ten plates in all, plus the weight of the bar, a total of four-hundred and ninety-five pounds. Dave’s face is red; his eyes are wild and glazed like an animal’s, and I watch as he takes an enormous breath and squats down, all the way down. His hamstrings hit his calves, and he bounces up into a half squat, his teeth gritted, a slow scream emitting from his mouth, and for a second I don’t think he’s going to make the lift, he’ll have to drop it quickly off his back, but then the bar goes up and Dave is standing. He takes two steps forward and racks the barbell, Arnold punching him in the chest, hollering and carrying on like a baboon. The weight secure, Dave immediately stumbles and falls, losing consciousness. “No way!” yells Arnold. “No way you passed out, bro!”
            “Is he all right?” I ask. Arnold looks at me, seeing me for the first time. He’s the better-looking of the two; he’s got an endearing gap between his front teeth that softens his macho image, and back in high school there was a rumor that he was kicked off the football team for soliciting his teammates, which is, of course, hilarious. Like his brother, he is shirtless and clad in a pair of ill-fitting jean shorts. In the dim light, he looks orange, and I wonder if he’s been hitting the tanning bed a little too often, or if he’s smeared himself with bronzer. 
            “That’s only happened once,” he says, pointing at Dave lying motionless, “and he woke up the last time.”
            “Maybe he’s due to not wake up, then,” I say. Arnold furrows his jutting brow, tilting his head like a dog. The house behind him looks like it’s about to implode. I’ve never been in there, never entered the hallowed sanctuary of these aspiring bodybuilders. I imagine the halls to be lined with pictures of grotesquely-muscled men and eighties action-movie heroes, the kitchen stocked with supplements like a laboratory, shelves full of dianabol, testosterone, trenbolone, and other miscellaneous body-altering chemicals. There are probably weight plates everywhere, maybe even a few books containing training routines and exercise theories. No doubt there are copious pornographic materials. The brothers look like they would have guns, so there’s likely an assault rifle or two lying about. The bathroom is most assuredly a toxic waste dump.
            “You wanna work in?” says Arnold, gesturing toward the squat rack. “Squats will give you an ass like a basketball. That shit will bounce down the street.”
            “What’s wrong with my ass?” I ask, feigning outrage.
            “Nothing,” replies Arnold, giving me his gap-toothed smile, “But everything can be better.” This sort of attitude reflects the essential innocence of the brothers, in spite of their aggressive demeanor and intimidating physiques. They believe in the merit of hard work. They think they’re going to make it—I can see them driving all night across the country, rushing to Hollywood and Venice Beach, trying for the American dream with all the other millions of eager, young cannibals. They could be sleeping next to the ocean by Friday. They could be waiting tables in the Golden State or dancing at Chippendales. They might get a commercial or two, a bit part, but after a while they’ll have to resort to Gay-for-pay because California isn’t cheap and neither is bodybuilding. I want to tell Arnold this, but for some reason I accept his offer to lift weights. Surprisingly, he’s nonplussed, as though he expected me to jump under the bar wearing jeans and a blouse.
            “Hey,” says Dave, suddenly coming to. “A chick.”
            “You made the lift, asshole,” says Arnold, stripping the bar of plates, tossing them onto the ground, making a racket. He leaves a forty-five on each side of the barbell and looks at me doubtfully, trying to estimate how much my thin one-hundred and thirty pound body can lift. I shrug and do a couple of warm up squats before stepping under the bar.
            “Easy weight, easy weight!” screams Dave, wobbly on his feet.
            “Don’t you punch me in the chest,” I warn him before taking the bar out of the rack. The weight digs into my upper back, and I feel myself leaning forward, threatening to topple, but I steady, knowing that I’m trying to do too much, that I’m always trying to do too much, and that I’ll never be able to stop.
            “Rack the bar,” says Arnold. “You don’t want to pull something.”
            “That’s only body weight,” says Dave. “Anybody can squat bodyweight.”
            “Every man maybe, but not every girl,” replies Arnold. He moves toward me, arms outward to cradle my waist, and I squat down, the bar feeling like the weight of the world. It doesn’t pin me at the bottom like I thought it would—I get stuck halfway up. The weight becomes impossibly heavy, my legs push but nothing happens, I feel myself sinking as I strain and grit my teeth, but then Arnold is pulling up on the bar just with his fingertips, and suddenly I am able to ascend. He and Dave help me rack the weight, and I lean against the bar, my legs wobbling, gasping for air.
            “She’s kinda crazy, ain’t she?” asks Dave.
            “We like crazy,” says Arnold.
            “You shouldn’t have helped me,” I tell them. “You should’ve let me feel what it’s like to be pinned.”
            “We were being gentlemen,” says Dave.
            “You don’t know what a gentleman is,” says Arnold. He punches his brother on shoulder, and Dave hits him back, and then they’re wrestling on the ground, arms entwined, shoulders pushing against each other like beasts battling for mating rights. I leave them to couple with each other.
            It’s not far to my house, only two more blocks. It’s a converted double-wide hidden by tall pines that shake and shudder in the wind as I walk down the gravel driveway. I call the front yard the moonscape—it’s cratered and littered with junk—and although many would find the disordered refuse to be a source of embarrassment and stress, I am always comforted by the sight of our old refrigerator lying open, its confines now a nest for rodents, and reassured by the wrecked skeleton of Mom’s Chevy sedan, with its artillery-sized rust holes and absence of intact windows. This is our past on display; we can walk through it at anytime and marvel at the relics we once used. How many have that luxury? Most people throw away their lives. Their happiness is dependent on the acquisition of new things. The future is fresh, shrink-wrapped, contained in a brightly-colored box. It is never worn, used, or decayed.
            I open the door and step inside. Mom is cooking spaghetti—I notice the smell of her oregano-heavy sauce immediately—but instead of walking to the kitchen to greet her, I head for my room. The hallways of the trailer are cluttered with Mother’s junk: stacked cardboard boxes, heaps of clothes, trash bags bulging with odd shapes. I step sideways and wedge my shoulders through the horde, fitting easily between the walls, my body a reed. My room, of course, is not like the rest of the place. There are few possessions, no decorations, and everything is ordered and arranged precisely. I have space in my room, space enough to move and breathe. The window is open, letting in the fresh night air, and I fall back on my bed and let it wash over me. The oregano stench is wafting underneath the door; Mom must be making a week’s worth of sauce. She does that often, prepares food in advance. She usually grills hamburgers and stacks them in the fridge for nightly consumption, but spaghetti has become her latest obsession. It’s cheap, filling, easy to make. For a grotesquely fat woman, you’d think she’d have a more varied diet, but alas, money is always the determiner, the underlying factor behind every decision. I’m sure she’d dine daily at every fine restaurant in the area had she the money. But her money, obtained through disability payments and child-support, is always thin, especially considering that she has taken a lengthy sojourn (nine years and counting) from her job as a bank manager in order to focus on my younger brother Diesel’s development, a task which, I’m afraid to say, she is not quite qualified to handle.
            There’s noise beneath my bed, the sound of a poorly suppressed cough. I shake my head and sigh and tell the little bastard to reveal himself. He complies, pulling himself out headfirst, gremlin eyes peering up at me, a mischievous, shit-eating grin on his cherubic face. Diesel is shirtless, as always. He is clad solely in a pair of Captain America boxer shorts, as is his wont to do when unsupervised. Clutched in his filthy paws is a BB gun, realistically modeled after a nine-millimeter Glock pistol, a present from his long ago vanished father.
            “What were you planning to do with that?” I ask. He continues smiling, his mouth missing most of its teeth. Diesel doesn’t speak much, and seeing how he shows little aptitude or patience for school work, however trivial, his teachers have begun to consider him special in the unfortunate sense, which is not accurate, no matter what Mom believes. The diminutive freak knows what he’s doing, and he frequently employs a sort of low cunning that will inevitably come in handy during his future career as either a petty criminal or politician, the latter probably being his developmental ceiling if he ever learns any impulse control. He certainly has the entitlement thing down.
            “You were going to shoot me in the ass with that, weren’t you?” I say. His continual grin says it all. I lunge toward him, trying to grab the pistol, but the imp deftly dodges and jumps back, pulling my door open and vanishing into the recesses of the trailer. His skinny, worm-like body has no trouble tunneling beneath Mom’s immense horde; I’ve often found him sleeping under four feet of piled clothing. Maybe he’ll grow up to be a coal miner or a spelunker, some adventurous troglodyte with no fear of tight spaces. I don’t know. It’s impossible to know.
            I hear Mom lumbering through the halls, her steps as heavy as a Sauropod’s. Her great bulk prevents her from sliding in-between the clutter leading up to my room, so when she desires my attention, she always raps against the wall and gently bellows my name. She does so now, drawling out the o and then the a in Leona, and I hear Diesel howling in mimicry, his cries mixing with those of my mother’s. I could just ignore them; it would be simple. Mother can’t make her way through, and I could lock the door to keep out Diesel. All I want now is some sleep and quiet. The thought of spaghetti on my plate is nauseating.
            “Leona Elizabeth, please come out and eat dinner with your momma!” she says. It’s always hard to tell whether she’s feigning indignation or not.
            “I’m not hungry, Mom! I’m tired and I want to go to bed!” I yell.
            “Honey, I fixed all this s’ghetti, and you ain’t gonna come and eat any of it?”
            “Just put some in the refrigerator. I’m really not hungry.” This approach, the stress of my lack of hunger, is probably foolish, since my mother cannot imagine satiety.
            “I wanna hear ‘bout them writers you studied today. Come on, honey, I’ve had to chase Diesel all around all day trying to make sure he don’t hurt himself. Let me talk to yous.” My mother’s grammar, always terrible, is a constant source of irritation. I don’t want to come out of my room because my mood has darkened, and I’m afraid I’ll say something to hurt her, as I seem to do daily. Her pleas continue, and Diesel starts chanting heathen gibberish behind her, and I’m forced to come out, since it’s obvious I won’t be getting any peace. As soon as my door opens, they shut up. I follow Mom’s gargantuan behind, two giant ham hocks swinging from side to side, scraping the clutter, pushing it hard against the walls. We sit down in the hideous yellow kitchen, clustered around a plastic table, the spaghetti heaped up on our plates. Mom never does any dishes, and I refuse to touch the mold-covered plates piled and stacked across the grimy counter. We use only paper and plastic now for our dishes and utensils. My plate is Ferrari red, the food on it resembling the scattered insides of some disemboweled creature. There are two meatballs, both as large as my fist, resting atop a mountain of pasta, sauce leaking off of them in slow flowing streams. I tentatively cut off a chuck with my fork and push it around the corner of my plate, waiting for it to animate and walk off.
            “Leona, come on now, don’t do that,” says Mom. “You’re setting a bad example for Diesel. Look at him, he’s playing with his food.”
            Diesel is holding a bloody meatball in the center of his hand, tearing off ragged pieces in great shark-like bites.
            “Why don’t you ever make him wear any clothes?” I ask, knowing the answer.
            “He just tears them off him, what am I supposed to do? Little boy’s got too much of his father in him.”
            “Yes, I remember Bill walking around naked all the time,” I answer. “That was one of the reasons I moved out as a teenager.”
            “Now come on, let’s not go reliving bad times,” replies Mom, shoveling a humongous forkful of pasta into her mouth. “Tell me about your day.”
This is how our conversations always begin. I could go missing for years and pop up in the kitchen suddenly like a ghost, and the first thing Mom would say is Tell me about your day.
“I lifted weights with the Conan brothers,” I say.
“Lifted weights?” My mother gives me a quizzical look, arching her unibrow. “Why would you do that?”
“I also punched a kid in the throat in Creative Writing,” I continued. “I waited till after class. I hid by the door, and as he came out I jabbed him right in the larynx. It was quick, stealthy. No one saw me. I blended in with the crowd. I don’t even think he knows what happened.”
“You could get expelled for something like that. Why on earth would you hit some poor boy?” asks my mother.
“I took a chance. I thought I could pull it off. I’ve done it four times now to separate individuals, and I’ve gotten away unnoticed three out of the four times. The next time I’ll get caught. So there won’t be a next time.”
My mother stares at me like I am the spawn of Satan. Diesel is rubbing his meatball all over his face, giving him a grotesque, fleshing-eating appearance, but Mom says nothing, she just continues to look at me flabbergasted. I excuse myself and throw away my full plate of spaghetti. Back in my room I feel bad about all sorts of things. I wonder if the Conan brothers are out there in their yard, pumping iron into the night. I wonder if Chad, the boy I punched, is having trouble breathing or speaking. The night air is very cold, but I don’t shut my window. I sleep with all of my clothes on.