Friday, June 2, 2017

Vignette City 52.


*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


We showed up to start work. It was the first day and on the first day it is usually just me and Amos who do the work, ripping out the floors and the doing whatever demo the Designer wants done. The lady who answers the door was really pretty and young. She was about Darcy’s age and it made me feel a little fatherly at her, so I felt bad that she looked like she’d maybe had the flu. “It’s this room back here,” she said and took us to the back bedroom. “Thank you very much ma’am,” Amos said to her and we go to work. There was a nice blue rug in the middle of the room but no furniture. Amos and I rolled it up real quick and he opened up the door to the closet to see if we could fit it in there, but there wasn’t any room. “Look at all that,” Amos said, examining all the unopened boxes filling up the closet. “That is a nice looking crib in the picture,” Amos said, “and that’s one of those strollers that’s also a car seat, right?” And I said, “Hey Amos, let me see those plans,” I took them and I looked at them and it was just as I’d remembered seeing, design for a home office.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Vignette City 51.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


I was up in the old Chinatown district because I was craving a fancy donut, but the line was really long and all the tourists were there, taking pictures of themselves with the bright pink donut boxes, so I just went wandering around, thinking maybe I would find a place to grab a beer even though it was only 10am, but it was the weekend, so who cares. If the waiter ended up looking like someone who would look at me sideways then I would just get a bloody mary. I went a couple blocks up toward where I vaguely remembered there was a bar tucked into an alley. I found the alley and turned into it but there was no bar there, but there was a giant gray rock. It was big and jagged and it was sitting on a kind of short pedestal or mount, like it was on display. I reached out and touched it. It just felt like a rock and I felt dumb because what had I expected?

There was a thick plaque mounted on the pedestal and I had to bend down to read it. It said: This is original ruble from the April 14th, 1920 earthquake that decimated the city, killing 34,000 residents and demolishing the city center and many of the river ports. It is placed here in remembrance of our fellow citizens who were crushed, squashed, flattened, burned, crippled, broken, and decapitated that day.

I had never heard of this so-called decapitating earthquake and I grew up six blocks from here. I pulled out my phone and tried to look it up, but couldn’t find anything. When I eventually found the bar, I ordered a bloody mary and asked the waitress if she had ever heard of the 1920 quake and she said, no.

I ended up having three bloody marys and I took a stroll on down to the City Historical Society, which gave free walking tours on Sundays and I asked the man at the front desk about the quake and he said, “Sir, have you been drinking?”

And I said, “What in the hell does that have to do with an earthquake?” Then I asked the security guy who was walking me out of the building if he had ever heard of the 1920 earthquake and he said, “Do I look like a historical seismologist to you?”

He did not and I told him so.

I stopped by my local place and had a gin and tonic and said to Dan, “Hey Dan, you grew up here right?”

“I started bartending here with my pops when I was five, what do you think?”

“You ever heard of the Earthquake of 1920? Killed 34 thousand people.”

“Here? Naw. I would have heard about that.”

“Thanks Dan,” I said as he brought me another.

Later, at the central library I went up to the top floor where they keep all of the dioramas of the city from each decade of its history and I walked from one end of the room to the other: 1850, 1860, 1870, and so on until I got to 1910 and then … I’ll be damned if the 1920 diorama wasn’t gone. The 1930 diorama was still sitting there, lots of tiny people lined up in long bread lines outside tiny city hall. “Hey!” I yelled at the closest librarian I could find, who wasn’t actually a librarian, but a high school kid who looked smarmy and nerdy and kind of stuck up, “Where is the 1920 diorama?”

“They took it out to clean it.”

“They clean them?”

“Yeah, they get dusty and then people start to think that the past was really dusty.”

“People are idiots.”

“Tell me about it,” the kid said.

I went back up to chinatown, but the donut line was even longer and so I went back to that one bar and had a couple more bloody marys and then when the waitress told me she wasn’t going to refill me any more, I stumbled out of there and went back to the alley so I could look at the damn rock again and see if maybe there was another plaque or something, maybe on the wall, but when I turned into the alley, there was no rock. The pedestal was there still, but it was empty and the plaque was gone. I bent down to look at where it had been and I could see that there were fresh scrapes around the screw holes, like it had just recently been taken off. I pressed my hand down on the flat top of the pedestal, but it didn’t feel like anything, just an empty spot.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Vignette City 50.


*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


The Painter had never received any formal training and possessed no innate talent, as such his work was predictably terrible.

He did however save a little girl from a burning building one time and that gained him some local notoriety, which really elevated his profile.

What really happened with the little girl was that The Painter was walking from his apartment to the grocery store because he had only minutes before convinced himself to go on a diet, so he had thrown out all of the food in his apartment and so he was going to buy a bunch of salad and fruit and as he was walking along he was mumbling the names of fruit to himself, saying, “Mangos. Lemons. Gooseberries. Pomelos. Apricots. Avocados …” and that was when he heard the little girl crying and he looked over and saw that she was standing in the doorway of her apartment building and that was when the Painter realized that the building was on fire and so he said, “Hey kid, you better get out of there. The place is on fire.”

The little girl shook her head violently, her pigtails swinging around in the air. “My mom says I can’t go outside without her.”

“Well where’s she at?”

“She’s at work.”

“Well look kid, this is what’s called an ‘extenuating circumstance’. You ever heard of those before?”

The little girl shook her head. “You’re a stranger!” She yelled.

That was the same moment a chunk of burning building fell into the street behind The Painter.

“Look kid, this is getting serious, so get your ass out here.”

“You said a bad word!”

The smoke was starting to get thicker now but still there were no sirens yet, so The Painter stepped over toward the girl and he reached down and tried to grab her. He had no experience with children, but he had a cat, so he employed a similar strategy grabbing at her under her little arms, but she shriek, “Put me down! Stranger danger!” Her arms were flailing and her little feet were kicking and her pig tails were looping through the air like nunchucks.

“Would you just stop doing that?” The Painter said.

One of her little hands connected right across his nose and they both heard a fat snap and he shouted and she froze, realizing what she’d done and suddenly fascinated by the river of blood pouring out of The Painter’s face.

“Dammit kid!” He shouted at her and swung her under his arm like she was a big log he was carrying. Another chunk of building fell into the street and The Painter yelled at her, “This is stupid and I should have let your ungrateful little ass burn to death!”

The Painter struggled to carry her out of the doorway and into the street and it was just then that a photographer from the local paper run up on the scene, lifted his camera to his eye and snapped the picture: The Painter, his face aggrieved and covered in blood, carrying the little girl under his arm as burning debris rained from the sky around them. It was a great shot. The photographer would go on to win all of the regional photojournalism awards that year. Days later The Mayor would give The Painter a key to the city and during his acceptance speech the Painter would plug the website where he sold his paintings. The little girl would later tell her mother, “I didn’t mean to hit him, but he deserved it.” Her mother didn’t care. She kissed the little girl on the head and said, “You’re my girl. I just love you so much.”

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vignette City 49.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


The city has been running The Story Booth Project for a few years, but I have never participated. There are a dozen booths around the city. About the size of a photo booth that you can step inside and you sit down and type in your information and then the green light comes on and you tell your story. The cops are pretty good about making sure that the homeless people don’t sleep in them, so they’re usually pretty clean. I don’t know why I’d never done it. It was a big thing, popular and trendy, when the city first set them up. I remember seeing lines of people waiting to record their bit. People in this city seem to love lining up for things. Fancy donuts, fancy tofu, local hybrid cheeses. I’ve never understood it.

There’s a box down by my office and it was rainy today, so maybe that’s why I decided to step inside and slide the door closed. It was nice to take a load off and so I just sat there on the little bench and I listened to the rain tink off the thin plastic roof of the box.

The green light made a clicking noise when it flipped on and I realized I was being recorded, which I guess I knew was going to happen.

“I just wanted to sit down and get out of the rain for a minute,” I said to the square mirror that had a camera behind it. Then I just looked at my own reflection in that mirror and I was a little surprised because the light in the box wasn’t great and the mirror was cheap and so I didn’t quite look like the person I was used to seeing in my bathroom mirror every morning. The person who was looking back at me had a lot in common with the people i the old black and white photos my mother had hanging up in her bedroom. I looked like someone had taken all those people and mixed them like their faces were cake batter and the result was a cake that looked kind of like me. I looked so much older than I was used to seeing myself. I was older than any of my dead family was in those pictures.

“There are so many people in the family pictures my mother always had hanging in her bedroom, “I said to the mirror. “I never knew any of them because we came up here where when I was a baby, but they’re all dead now. And my mother, she died. Adn I never knew my father or his side of the family. There were always so many faces, you know, on my mother’s wall and I don’t really know any of their names. I just took all the pictures down the other day. I don’t know who, I don’t know who I’m supposed to call. None of them ever came to this country. It was just me and my mother. I don’t know why she decided this was the place to start over. She was, I think, 19 when she came here. Three jobs, you know, the whole time i was a kid. She taught me how to cook, I was maybe 6, she taught me because she needed me to be able to cook for both of us, because she either didn’t have time or she was tired as a dog when she was home. She came up here, I know, to get away from her family and to get away from the home country, but really I know that she came up here because she wanted me to be able to have a better life. She, did all that, she made the needs of her own life secondary to the needs of mine, I guess. She moved up here, I know, because she wanted me to have a better life. She gave up her life. Basically. She, she did that for me and now, I guess I’m me. And what does that amount to? I have … I don’t know, a life. It’s a totally normal life. I go to work. I go to the gym. I watch TV. She didn’t tell me what I’m supposed to do to make all the sacrifice she made worth it. And now I can’t ask her. She did all this work so I could have a life and my life … it’s fine. It’s not good, it’s not bad. I have a nice couch. I really like it. It’s probably my favorite thing that I own. I like to sit on it. That’s probably when I’m happiest. I like to sit on my couch and watch TV. That’s all I really want to do. So it that what it was about? Is that what the point was? Did she bust her ass her whole life so that I could just basically sit comfortably? What sense does that make?”

And that’s when I realized I’d been talking for awhile and so I wiped my nose with my sleeve and I said, “Anyway, I just wanted to get out of the rain. It looks like it has let up a little bit.”

Then I slid the door open and the green light clicked off and I walked away and I really wish I hadn’t recorded any of that.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Is a giant Matchbox toy just called a car?


Vignette City 48.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


We were out busking in the riverfront park. It was a bright, hot day. Lots of joggers and people on bikes and kids playing in the big fountain, but their parents were sitting in the benches in the shade and so I smacked Gino on the arm and said, “We should play more adult contemporary stuff.”

Gino rolled his eyes because we have been having an ongoing fight about whether people want to hear buskers play GWAR and I keeping telling him that they don’t. He started strumming the opening chords of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only living Boy in New York” and right away I could see the parents looking over at us because Gino is too young and beardy to know that song and he sings like Justin Vernon, which is probably who all of them do it to on their monthly date nights. I’m not bitter, I just know how marriage is.

One of the mothers got up of her bench and came over and dropped a five into our guitar case. She had big black sunglasses on, but I could tell how she was looking at us, us two young guys with guitars and no cares in the world and reminding her of the dudes she used to sleep with back when she was young. This happens a lot. We move around a lot and so we’ve gotten used to people looking at us, hoping to recognize us, hoping that we might be their old friends who will remind them of youth. They want us to be a conduit connecting them to, at least, the possibility of freedom. They don’t want to be us, they don’t look at us like they’re envious of us (because they’re not, we are below their life stations, their tight blank smiles make that clear), they look at us like they want something from us. They want us to give them back what they choose to give up when they decided not to be free.

The mother went back to her bench. Her kid ran out of the fountain, sopping wet. He ran up to her and gave her a big soggy hug before going a little dance and then rushing back into the fountain while shrieking just because he had so much energy inside his little body.

Gino was singing, “I get all the news I need from the weather report.”

The mother sat there, damp and scowling. She glared at us through her glasses.

Gino sang, “Half of the time we’re gone …”

Some of the other parents came over and dropped some bills in our case, which was great, because it meant we’d be able to eat later.

“But we don’t know where …” Gino sang.

Then they all sat on their benches and tried to decide if they loved us or if they hated us.

“And we don’t know where …” Gino sang.

But it wasn’t really us they were deciding about, because it never is. It was their own lives they were deciding about.

Gino sang, “I know you’ve been eager to fly now. Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine now. Do-n-do-d-do-n-do.”

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Vignette City 47.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


I went to see my OBGYN. It always makes me nervous. I don’t have any reason to think anything is wrong with me, but maybe that means something is wrong with me, you know? How would I know? I’m not a doctor. But if something is wrong, the doctor is going to be the one to tell me, but if I don’t go, then nothing can be wrong, right? Because the doctor can’t tell me something is if she doesn’t know, right?

She’s okay, my doctor. She asks everybody to call her Caitlyn. All my OBs who weren’t men were like that, like, “We’re friends, this isn’t weird.” I’ve had two OBs who were men and both of them were named Scott, but the nurses always referred to them as “the Doctor.”

I took my clothes off and put on that gown and I sat there on the edge of the examination table, in between the stirrups. I sat with my hands nestled limply in my lap. Those rooms always make me feel like I’m in the principal's office.

I looked at the stirrups. I’ve always thought they’re weird. I feel about them the way I would feel about the tools in a Victorian dentist’s office.

Then the door opened really fast and I looked up expecting to see Caitlyn, but it wasn’t her. I had to squint because at first I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Then I said, “You’re the Mayor …”

He was dressed like the Mayor, but with a white lab coat over his suit coat. His hair was all, well, the way it is.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s impressive, right?” He snapped on a pair of powdery white latex gloves. “Okay, let’s go ahead and do this.”

“Wait. What?”

“I don’t have all day. I have a very busy day, very busy. You wouldn’t believe how much I have to do.” He stood there. He is a much bigger man than I’d ever realized. Really tall and super wide, like a thick tree trunk of a wall. I didn’t vote for him, I always tried to ignore him.

“Are you even a doctor?”

“No, no. I could have been. I’m very smart. I would have been the best doctor.”

“What are you doing here?” I didn’t like being so close to him, especially since I was only wearing a thin gown, just loosely tied down the back. I’d heard the stories about him.

“I’m here straightening out the medical care in this city. We’re going to have the best health care here. The best. It is the best already, everyone says so. I’m going to make it better. So let’s get started. How to these leg straps work? Get those legs up there.”

“WHAT?”

“Yeah, I need to keep track of what’s going on up there. I’m the Mayor.”

“WHAT.”

Then the door opened again and Caitlyn was their, her cheeks red like she’d just dashed back from lunch after getting a call from the office, the rest of her face was an empty horrified white, as if her toddler son had just punched a handicapped puppy in the face.

“Mister Mayor!” She almost yelled. “We need you, there is a problem … in the other room. A … big and important problem …”

“Oh yeah?” The Mayor said. Then he turned and looked at my body shape, like he was scanning my flesh through the gown. “Okay,” he said, pulling the gloves off and dropping them right onto the floor. “I have to go,” he said to me, “something big and important is happening. You know though, you might be hot if you lost some weight. I’m the Mayor.”

He walked out of the examination room and Caitlyn said to me, “I’m so sorry,” she was close to tears, “He keeps doing this. I don’t know why. He just shows up.”

She closed the door and it was just me in the room again. I jumped off the table and dressed as fast as I could. I left the office as fast as I could and I am never going back.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Interesting New Ways I Might Die.

The below pictures are for my WR 507 class. It is a “research for writers” class which focuses primarily on putting me in situations where I might get dead, and thereby boost the potential sales of my posthumously published books.The below hike into Washington Park in Portland, OR was part of a “method research” exercise I’m working on for my D. B. Cooper story (that’s why I went hiking through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest in a 3-piece suit).


The hike starts in the subway.

 The Vietnam Memorial spirals.

D. B. Cooper was originally called "Dan Cooper", just like this person might have been. 

The forest gets dense enough to suck up all the city sounds nearby.

These bushes are as tall as me.

 If you're ever lost in the woods, old tracks let you know you're somewhere.

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Bad Bots.


Yes, I know. I have fallen behind on my daily Vignette City posts and all of the Russian hacking bots that read my blog are very upset. I know this because they keep sending me emails about checking my credit score, refinancing my mortgage, or wanting to meet for coffee and viruses.

So listen Russian Hacking Bots, I am in GRAD SCHOOL and so obviously very busy and simultaneously completely unimportant.

But I will get caught up this weekend. I totally swear.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

When you had a rough Tuesday and you're all like, "When can I have wine? Friday?! Fine, I'm scheduling that shit." . #gradschoolproblems


Vignette City 46.


*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***



Things which are part of my life that I am uncomfortable with:

Microwave: I do not understand how this works. It seems nuclear-ish. So how is it on my kitchen counter? It is a box that makes micro-waves and I'm supposed to believe that it won't damage my daughters?

Refrigerator: It rumbles and gets hot along the back, but makes things cold? It gets hot and makes things cold? That is a principle I’m supposed to rely on? To keep my milk cold?

Light: Electric, I guess, if you want, like some people do, but I have candles and like them better.

Locks: I don’t fear the outside people; I have a shotgun. What do I need locks for?

Walls: I prefer the air, the night. I like the wind to lick my skin.

Dirt: I like to feel it on my flesh as it cool me.

Outside: where I prefer to be, nude.

Forest: where I wait, bathed in moist black soil, waiting.

Society: which I have left.

Buffets: which I can still see from here - their wane yellow city glow - but which I have never been invited to.

Bacon: which we do not have out here. But is pigs? Who looked at pigs and said, "My mouth"?

Toast: which I have not had in a very long time. Crisp, I remember it being. Comforting, in a small way.

The blessing of human contact: no. Not recently.

Daughters: once. Then. Not now.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Vignette City 45.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


I make 35 grand a year, but I used to make 30 grand a year. So when I got the pay bump I just sat down with a glass of moscato and a spreadsheet and did the math about how to deposit to my savings a % more each month so that I would never see the extra.

Like a ghost on a trap door.

That was a couple of years ago.

Three years actually.

I don’t think about money much, except every day because I manage my boss’s money, but I don’t ever think about my money.

Then I looked at bank account, my savings account, at 2.1% interest and I had some money in there before the pay bump and so I should have had about 22 grand in there, but when I looked at it I had 9.7 million in there.

So that was weird.

I looked at the deposits and there were mine each month, about $208.33 each paycheck, but then also there were these erratic deposits: $126,314.73 one month, $76,413 another month, $449,113.93 another month.

It was not hard to sort out which ones were mine and which ones were not.

I plugged it all into a spreadsheet, figured out what was mine.

Very cautiously I withdrew all my own money and waited for the red flags.

But there were none.

No sirens.

No alarms.

So I pulled out one dollar that was not mine.

Then two.

No siren.

I pulled out forty bucks.

Nothing.

I pulled out $400.

Nada.

I bought a really good bottle of zinfandel, drank some of it and then pulled four hundred thousand dollars and …

Nothing happened.

I opened some other bank accounts. I started a couple of LLCs in Florida and Arizona. I watched a Youtube video about how to create a shell company. I transferred one hundred thousand dollars to an offshore account.

Then I waited.

I drank a really smooth Semillon and and moved one very cool million dollars.

And …

Nothing.

I looked up online how much I could withdraw in cash from a bank. The daily limit is ten thousand dollars. So I went to the bank and pulled 5. I went to my other bank and pulled 5.

I had 10k in my backpack and I went to a motel that took cash, I asked for a phone book because there wasn’t one in the room because that’s not a thing anymore and I called some stripper places and I ordered 4 strippers and they all came to my room and we did stuff like throw money in the air and they poured champagne on each other and one me and one of them knew how to do this fire eating thing and then the room caught a little bit on fire, but not that much and it turned out to not be that big a deal.

And someone had cocaine that I think I had to pay for and a teenager showed up with pizzas and then there was a guy who asked me if I wanted to invest in the circus and that seemed like a good ideas, probably because of the cocaine.

It was the best night of my life.

It took a few days in that motel room for me to realize what is really important.

So I called my boss from the plastic brown phone and I quit my job.

And nothing happened.

So I called the strippers and they sent me to the circus guy and now I help manage the circus and I know how much elephants eat. We travel all the time and that is quite nice and I get to go to places I didn’t know existed. I only make $400 a week now, but - with compounding interest - I have more than fifteen million dollars accessible to me.

But who needs that much money anyway?

I have happiness.

Now.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Vignette City 44.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


So the technology is pretty easy.

Instead of sending your lover an email, you send the email and it goes to somebody else. That somebody else knows where your lover lives and works and drinks and hangs out, because you've told them. That somebody shows up where your lover is and delivers the email, out loud.

“Hey bitch!” the guy shouted at my ex-girlfriend in the middle of her hot yoga class, “Why you gotta be such a slut?”

I sent that when I was drunk.

But to be fair, I was drunk because she fucked a luggage handler at the airport. He handles luggage at the airport, but she also fucked him there, on the way to a yoga instructor’s retreat.

Later, after I bailed him out, the “Hey bitch” guy told me that he totally recognized my ex. “Oh yeah,” he said, “I have busted her a bunch. I would remember her ass anywhere. I have like a photographic memory for asses.”

I called her and she did not answer. I texted her and said: Have you been cheating on me?

And she texted back, like the fucking lunatic she is:

We were never dating.

I thought we were friends.

You have really made me sad.

Just leave me alone please.

Please.


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Vignette City 43.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***



I have not paid my cell phone bill in 16 months.

After 1 month, I worried.

After 2 I worried a lot.

After 3 I was scraping my nervous skin off.

After 4 months I entered a fugue state.

After 5 months I expected each text to be the last I would ever send, as though the final end of my service would somehow come down so hard that I would be crashed by it and die.

After 6 months I began to accept that the end was inevitable, but that it’s coming was not.

After 7 months I began to enjoy being alive. I accepted every email, every restaurant recommendations, ever call with a happy chirp in my heart.

After 8 months I began to appreciate everything: free data, sunlight, push notifications, how nice it felt to suck cold morning air in through my nose to wake up my lungs.

After 9 months I forgot to be worried. It was the best time of my life.

After 10 months I forgot the whole situation, I had a my first gallery show and I met Darcy

After 11 months I had a little gray waiver of worry because Darcy and I were primarily phone/fuck-based at that time.

After 12 months I didn’t even think about the phone because Darcy had a really big bed and really fascinating urges.

After 13 months I completely forgot that a phone could be a problem because all of my problems were called That Fucking Bitch Darcy.

After 14 months I acted like my phone got disconnected because Darcy got diagnosed and she needed someone to cry with and that just wasn’t going to be part of my life.

After 15 months I mostly sent emails trying to get another gallery show.

After 16 months I thought all the time about texting Darcy, but couldn’t think of a good way to ask if she was still alive.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Vignette City 42.


*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


You know, the thing that is really pissing me off lately is that it is becoming clear that no one else seems to respect the bylaws.

We have rules for a reason, people.

I was on-board - cautiously - when they wanted to merge the leagues. There were fifty-five different leagues in town and we were all piddly-ass each on our own, but together we could be monolithic and we would control not just most, but about 99% of all the Live Action Role Playing in the whole city. When they came to me, they said, “You are the Presiding President of the Live Action Robert’s Rules of Order Role Playing Parliament and you are the guy we want to figure out how to merge all of our charters and constitutions.” And I - like Thomas Mother F’ing Jefferson - stepped up and said, “Yes, it will be a better thing I do this weekend than I have ever done before!”

And it was work. So much work. Some of these charters, these rule books, these quote/unquote “constitutions” were so short sighted, so shoddy, so riddled with holes, that I was stunned that some of these Quidditch clubs, these Civil War re-enactor groups, these Battle of the Bulge Strategy Battle Groups could even manage to operate One of the Breaking Bad Ballet groups didn’t even HAVE a set of rules! Just a sign-up sheet. Not even a member roster, just a list of names really, from their third LARP. Amateurs.

So I drank coffee after 2pm, I stayed up after midnight two nights in a row. I poured myself into it. I sweat. I cried a little bit. I sweat a lot and it was not even that hot that day, barely broke the mid-70s. But I did it; I made my masterpiece. I set out rules. I created committees. I created subcommittees. I created a system that could imagine the future. I created a set of rules that could breathe like a set of systemic lings. I created a system of rules that expand or contract to meet the unknowable challenges of future ages and when I distributed the 3-inch binders containing our new, crisp, perfect constitution, they said, “Thanks.”

And then they moved on to a schedule for the next weekend’s schedule of events in Forest Park.

None of them even opened their binders. None of them even peered inside.

They ratified my constitution without reading it into the meeting minutes, which was a violation of the Article 7, section 13, subsection 9(b).

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

When you're so far behind on everything that you just wander out of your apartment and end up drinking beer on a patio.


Vignette City 41.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***



My building is going to get torn down because it is one hundred and twenty-four years old and also because of the fire damage from the dragons last month.

Structurally the building is fine as long as you do not live over in the north side, so I don’t know what the hurry is. It isn’t dangerous. Unless you live over on the north side, but very few of those people survived anyway, so it doesn’t seem like there should be a hurry.

Already though I can see the signs that the exodus is beginning. That couple up the hall who have that kid whose croup I suffered through without even complaining very much has started bringing back random cardboard boxes from their jobs. So they will be gone soon. Good riddance, now that they’re showing their real colors.

And the smell is not that bad. Sure, it was pretty pungent the first few days after the fire and the water from the fire engines and then the slow wet molding smell of all the burned flesh and fat during the first week or so, but we have all gotten used to it now. I barely even notice it most of the time most of the days. It isn’t as if it is intolerable.

I have tolerated worse.

There was that Italian man on the third floor who was stealing my panties for a while. That was worse than some bad smells.

He’s dead now. Melted last month in his little panty-stuffed studio apartment on the north side of the building.

So that worked itself out just fine. I don’t know what everyone is complaining about.

I’m not complaining. Sure, there is a cold draft blowing in through the burn scars at the north end of the hall. There are street birds nesting in some of the hallway sconces now, and they defecate on the carpet, but how bad is that? In the big picture? Is that worth abandoning your home over? Some pigeon droppings in the hallway? Is that so bad that you want to leave your home because of it? Is that worth betraying all the happiness that you had here? Is it worth giving up on this place where your husband used to sleep? Where he was happy for the last time ever in his life? Are some birds so bad? Some rain and some cold drafts? Are those such a problem? When this is the last room where you ever kissed your husband? When this is the last real home you will ever have?

I don’t give up so easily.




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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Vignette City 40.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***




Things I have been wondering about since I lost my job and have therefore been spending a lot of time down in the riverfront park eating my Tupperware lunch out of my otherwise empty briefcase and then waiting to go home until rush hour so that Jules won’t catch on to the fact I got fired:
  • What is the hiking like in Cuba? It has to be pretty good, I would imagine. I know they have mountains because that’s where Castro hid out. I wonder if there were ever days when the rebels were sneaking up cow paths and trails, hauling food and ammunition up to camp, and maybe one of them stopped along the trail and looked around and thought, “Holy hell, it is really fucking gorgeous out here.”
  • If we could breed trees to produce wifi signals, that would really change a lot about the world.
  • Jules has probably always known that she was too good for me.
  • Are really beautiful movies written backwards? Based on a series of ideas for certain shots and then somebody just figures out how to make all of those shots connect via some kind of story? Or are there really people so good at thinking in shots that they can read a script and somehow cram some kind of beauty in between the lines? I don’t know much about movies, but that seems like it would be a really rewarding kind of life, having to just find ways to make life beautiful.
  • Jules hasn’t been sleeping well lately, wrestling all around in bed at night. I have actually been sleeping better than normal.
  • I’ve been reading a book called Railroads in Tasmania, about the railroads in Tasmania. I have not been reading it really, mostly I have been looking at the really luscious photographs. I have a hard time remembering that Tasmania is a real place. I have a hard time remembering that any distant place is real. Everyplace I have ever seen is pretty much just a place like this one.
  • There must me something kind of erotic about being a woman and having your measurements taken. Unless women are just as sensitive about their bodies as I am about mine. But why would they be? When theirs are so pretty looking. Some of us just look like flubby middle-aged men. There is nothing erotic about us. Or me. Retired soccer players, maybe their measurement-taking is erotic. I don’t know much about soccer.
  • Jules will notice next week when my paycheck doesn’t deposit.
  • That bridge is really high. A really pretty bridge.
  • Jules will ask me to ask HR what happened with my direct deposit and that will buy me another week.
  • I wonder how high that bridge actually is? The roadway seems pretty high.
  • Jules is my beneficiary.
  • I wonder how much I’m worth.
  • I wonder if the underthings women wear under their funerary dresses are more or less elaborate than what they wear under any other dresses? Do they have special underthings? I would like to think so, but I don’t know.
  • How high does a bridge need to be, for it to be the terminal kind? I wonder if anyone has ever done the math on that. On how high a bridge can be before it becomes deadly? 
  • How do jellyfish mate, I wonder?
  • What is Jules doing right now?
  • What should I do with my briefcase? Just leave it here against the guardrail? Will they send a boat? Is there a special boat that fishes people out of the river? How busy is that boat, I wonder? 
  • I wonder if Jules will be happier this way.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Vignette City 39.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


Towing my tin
fishing boat up
Grand Avenue
in ambush rain

heading north
then east:
to Hagg Lake,
rainbow trout.

Wet brakes and windshield smear.
My little boat
fills up with water
at a red light.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The other day I thought I saw the Loch Ness monster in the river. It turns out it was not the Loch Ness monster.


Vignette City 38.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


So I’m after the guy who stole my identity. I had only just figured out that he had done it. So I headed to work, because that is what I would have been doing right then if my identity had not been stolen.

What happened next can only be considered even remotely plausible if you: 1) believe in something like fate or God or destiny or a divine plan or are tremendously stupid, or 2) have a supple enough mind to appreciate that on a long enough timeline there is a greater chance of something happening eventually than not ever happening, or 3) you think I’m making all of this up.


What happened was: I told work I would be late and I went down to a branch of the bank that had issued me the card. Had I ever made it to the bank they would have told me that coming to the bank was a waste of time because even though the bank issued me the card it was secured through the credit card company and then there would have occurred a conversation that I would not have enjoyed. But before any of that could happen, I got off the subway around the corner from the bank and stopped at a coffee cart. It was morning and that’s when I drink coffee. The cart smelled like a cloud made of coffee and I didn’t even mind waiting. What I did mind was when I stepped to the front of the line and the coffee cart guy said to me, “Back again Mister B.?”


My name is - in fact - Bloom.

Whathefuck? I considered saying because it seemed like the most appropriate thing, but instead said, 
“Excuse me?”

“You change clothes Mister B?” Coffee Cart Guy asked.

“Listen to me very carefully. We see each other all the time, right?” I was working a hunch here.

“Every morning. You feeling okay Mister B.?”

“I’m having a very unusual morning, I will admit that. Was I just here?”

“Yeah, couple minutes ago.”

“Which way did I go?”

“These are very unusual questions Mister B.”

“I will grant you that. Do you know where I was headed?”

“Same way as always,” Coffee Cart Guy pointed his finger up the street. “I think you work in that building.”

“Thank you Coffee Cart Guy.”

“My name is Vince. You were a lot nicer the last time. Tipped better than normal.”

And so I wasn’t running, but yeah, maybe running a little. The building was all corporate concrete gray. Glassed in first floor. Big hunk on nondescript corporate art/water attraction just outside the lobby. Standard stuff. About a block up, other side of the street. With the morning foot traffic Secondary Me might not have made it there yet, taking it easy, sipping his coffee, enjoying life. So I’m going to outsmart him. I dash out into the street. How good it feels to dash! Around the cars, horns blaring some tires screeching, but that’s okay, because I’m already across the street and dashing up toward the building. I try not to push people out of the way, instead I weave and dash around them. Saps, sipping their coffee, taking it easy. I’m on a mission. I’m through the next intersection, sweating. I’m standing in front of the corporate art/water attraction. I am letting them come to me. All of the take-it-easy-sip-your-coffee-have-no-idea-I’m-waiting-for-you morning people.

I can’t stand still, still moving. Moving slightly from one foot to the other, one foot to the other. All adrenaline jittery. And then just like that, like you just would not fucking believe unless you (see above: 1, 2, or 3), there I am.

There I am!

Walking right toward me.

There is a guy who looks just like me, sipping his coffee and walking toward me. And I look good. I look relaxed. I look like a man who has not spent his morning hunting a man who has stolen his identity. I watch him walk toward me and I think for a second about how I have not thought of anything cool to say to him.What do you say to someone who is you? Or who might be you? Or might be a liar pretending to be you? 

What do you say? Do you say, “You are not me! I am the only me!”

But then I realize I’d gotten lost in thinking about what to say when I showed up and I suddenly couldn’t find me anymore. Had I let me go by? Had I gotten past me? I hopped up and down and tried to see all the people morning moving around me, but I couldn’t see me.

I couldn’t see me anywhere.

I was gone.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Vignette City 37.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


Waiting at the bus stop. 

I notice the construction of the bus stop.

The bus stop is only a clear back wall with a clear roof and it is raining and the roof keeps the rain off of me.

The bus stop is constructed of steel and the glass is not glass, it is three layers of clear plastic.

Who designs bus stops? Civil engineers are likely the designers of bus stops, though I do not know what civil engineers actually do, but they probably design bus stops. And awnings. The roof of the bus stop, see-thru and sheltering me from the rain, is really just a plastic awning and pretends to be nothing else.

There is no map at the bus stop. All of us who huddle here in this bus stop know where we came from and where we need to go. So there is no need for a map. This is not a bus stop for tourists. 

Even the ants are locals. There are two ants. I see them crawling up one of the steel posts that form the back of the bus stop. I see them and they seem to be on their way to other places. Other places like the other places that each of us here will be ultimately head to once the bus arrives and we leave this bus stop.

There are things carved into the silver steel post that the ants are climbing up. Not always words. Sometimes just letters. The letters I and the letters L and U and V and the word MARCUS, which I think is a name, but it is not my name, so this is probably not a message for me, unless I wants me to know that s/he loves MARCUS.

I wonder what MARCUS is like. All I know about him is that he is lovable. Lovable in that way that would make I want to declare that love with a dull blade of flat edge into steel. How long must I have spent cutting that message? Carving it? I do not know who I was or is, but s/he must have had a lot of time or a lot of energy. 

Love probably gives a person a lot of energy and/or the sense that time has grown long, that it has gotten so long that dying is a thing that won’t happen. It will though and I want to say that to the ants that are trying to maneuver around droplets of rainwater that are leaking down through the joint at the top of the bus stop where the steel meets the plastic of the awning.

The bus stop is leaking. I hope it does not leak too much before the bus arrives, because I do not want the bus stop to stop being a bus stop. I like this bus stop. I do not want it to become non-functional. I do not want it to become debris, at least not while I need it.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Vignette City 36.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***



I take the 46 Bus in from Hillsboro every day. About an hour each way. So I’m on the bus a lot. Two hours of my day. And back when I got the job I thought that would be okay. I thought that it would give me time to read. Two hours a day just to settle in and read a book. Any book I wanted! That’s why I was in such a hurry to finish college; I wanted my life back. I wanted to read what I wanted to read. And I wanted to have a real job. I was tired of being infantilized by syllabi, you know?

But it turns out that even grown-up life is pretty prescriptive. No one tells you that when you’re in college. No one ever says, Hey, just in case you’re nurturing any delusions, actually life is pretty fucking weird and pretty fucking hard and you will spend most of your adulthood putting off doing laundry.

So sure, I get to pick my own books now. I started ambitious; I was finally going to read Infinite Jest and so I hauled all 1,079 pages on board with me my first day of work. And you know what I figured out very fast that very first day riding the bus headed to my first day of work at my first grown-up job? Carrying around a 3 pound book in your bag all day is some bullshit, especially if way too many of those 3 pounds are about what white people think about tennis. Pretty soon I swapped it out for The Argonauts, but I found myself riding to and from work asking myself, Which fucking dead white men was Ludwig Wittgenstein? I know I had to read him in college, but shit, nobody ever told me I was supposed to remember these assholes.

I changed that out for Mystic River because I remember that it was a movie when I was a kid and the movie was a big deal, so why not read the book? And I will tell you why, because it is a giant fucking bummer of a book about the fucked up lives of white people and how their kids get fucked up and turn into fucked up people.

Then I tried reading The Girl on The Train because I didn’t read it when it came out because I was busy being in high school, but I know that was a book that people read and because here i was a girl on a bus and she was a girl on a train and I was always secretly waiting for someone to say to me, “You must be a big fan of public transportation” but no one ever did. And anyway, that white lady drinks too much.
And anyway, the longer I have been working, the more I am just tired. It is different than when I was in college. In college you’re tired because you go to sleep at 3 in the morning because you’re cramming for a test or whatever, and then the next day you sleep until 4 in the afternoon. That is not what it is like as a grown-up though. That old life was chaos, and chaos can be exhausting, but this is like the total opposite of chaos. This is like a slow slow long stretch. It is the same thing every day. The same bus stop. The same bus. The same strangers. The same office. The same desk. The same keyboard where I spend my life. The same lunch room. The same keyboard. The same other bus. The same other strangers. The same kind of tired. How can I get tired when all I do is sit all day and get fat. I’m getting fat? How is that a thing that is happening?

The same bus.
The same keyboard.
The same keyboard.
The same other bus.

I don’t even want to read anymore.

I just want to not think. It’s like my brain is tired at the end of the day. I just want to ride the bus and not talk to weirdos. I just want to take a nap. Can you believe that? That’s all I want. All I do on Friday nights is go to bed early. Remember when I used to do the exact opposite of that? Remember how back then my hope was to be doing this? How eager I was to do this? How I thought that my life as all building toward something? That that something would be this job that I have? Remember how much of a hurry I was in to get here? And now all I want is to be back there? How come no one tells you? How come there is not a class where they say, “If you want to read a book that weighs 3 pounds, you better do that shit now, because as your life gets longer, you will lose your desire.”

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Concerning today's "riots" in Portland, Oregon. #maydaypdx


Vignette City 35.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


We got to the point in the date when we both knew it wasn't going to work out so we started testing out some new material on each other just to see how it would work. The weird part about all of this app-based dating I have been doing lately is that, since I have it all dialed in to what I’m looking for - tall, but not weirdly tall, driven, successful, but not a workaholic, you know doing okay for himself, not rich but can pay his bills and has a 401K and maybe a boat, not a crazy boat, but something to take out on the river in the summer - that they all kind of begin to blur together. So now I’m not really shooting these guys down on the basis of stuff that’s important to me - It is not my job to do your laundry, I am not your mother. I can wear whatever I want because it is my body so don’t tell me what I can’t do, but do tell me what you like on me - but instead on some pretty small stuff - it looks like he bites his nails, what’s that about? He clearly isn’t using moisturizer - because it makes me feel like all these guys are kind of just new iterations of the same guy and so if I keep shaping them and shaping them and shaping them on each successive date, then eventually the guy who shows up will be the guy I want. So I don’t usually hate any of them at this point. I just get bored waiting for the next version to show up. I know that each one of them will slink back to the Dude Factory on the edge of town or whatever, and he will get recycled back into his basic man building blocks and maybe the next one will be better. I like to imagine that basic-man-building-blocks look like LEGOs.

So I was trying to provide this one with more information to take back to his hive when I said, “I just don’t understand how the Mayor got elected. I mean, he’s not even qualified. Did you see the thing the other day about how he peed in a pool?”
And the guy - this one was not a bad upgrade, The Hive had clearly worked out a lot of the bugs since the last release - he said, “You know, that bugged me for a long time too, the Mayor getting elected, but I think I have figured it out, finally. See, I like movies. I enjoy them. I think about them a lot, but I could never make a movie or anything, don’t worry, I’m not the kind of guy who secretly thinks he’s auteur. I like my job. But here is what I have figured out: every person has within them a shitty screenwriter. Only most people don’t write, so they don’t know that they’re constantly writing a bad movie in their head. They just think they’re thinking and how did they learn to think about the really big things like terrorism, like espionage and international relations, or how to run a city or manage a municipality? What to do about the homeless problem? Do these people read any history? Do they go to school for this stuff? Do they look at the world? Do they read non-American media? No. They learned how to think about the world from shitty movies, based on shitty screenplays written by shitty screenwriters. I didn’t vote for the Mayor - I didn’t actually vote. I don’t. What’s the point? - but I understand why someone might have. People are all just trying to understand the world and sometimes the only way the world makes sense is to think about it like it’s a shitty movie and the Mayor is basically a real-life character in a shitty movie.”

He took a big swig from his drink - his third - and he looked at me like I should toss my hair and giggle about how smart he is. So I tossed my hair and giggled a little, not because he was so smart, but because he might actually have been right, so I wanted The Hive to know that they were on the right track and I appreciated it.


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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Vignette City 34.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***


Each semester all the custodians have to go around at night to all of the classrooms and we have to look at all of the furniture. We see every chair, we see every table, every desk. We sit in each tablet armchair and we test the hinges. We make notes: hinge needs greased.

How many semesters has it been? Do you count the summers? Our work doesn’t get lighter in the summers, just easier to do. It gets lonelier though. I have always liked working here, all these semesters. I like the lives all around me, all the energy around me. Youth, I catch some of it by osmosis. I always feel better in the Fall when all the new ones show up, wet with optimism, nerves, and hope. My joints ease, my soul get greased and smooth.

I never got to go to college. But I feel it in me. I look at the chalkboards each night before I wipe them clean. Sometimes - when I have the time - I erase the chalk lines by running my flat finger along them. I’ve traced the letters NaCl, I have followed with my own fingertip the formulas for gravity, for the nature of spheres, I have unwritten the words, “Freedom of consciousness entails more dangers than authority and despotism” and in doing so absorbed bodily something of them. I can tell you that as buildings go, the library is no smarter than any other building, but perhaps it contains more knowledge. Maybe so do I.

Maybe.

Over the years I have named all the squirrels and I know where they live and I have seen generations of them come and go and sometimes when I see one of them, I can remember her great-great-grandmother and it reminds me of One Hundred Years of Solitude, that I read because one of the English professors assigns it every spring and so I read it once and it changed my life some small amount and so at night in his classroom, I would write a line from the book on his chalkboard and I never talked to him about it and he never asked me why every morning he found the words of Garcia Marquez there in his classroom, and maybe that was because he could see how it made the world just a tiny fraction better.

On the nights when we check the furniture, I use my notes to practice the precision of my language. This chair here for instance, I will describe as though I love it a little, but still can see it for what it is. I think I will write:

Some of the adjustments
stick
a little, at first,
but function, eventually.

The cushion padding,
long compressed,
feels thin,
looks frayed.

A little gum stain, shaped
like a conch shell,
makes the seat seem dirty.
Just an old chair.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vignette City 33.


*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***



There are too many photos on my phone. My phone is all locked up now. I can’t do anything with it because I am out of storage. I know it is because of the photos because everything was fine this morning, but then I went out on a house-call and the lady said that the place was haunted, but they all say that.

I started burning my sage and I put the crystals out, but then I saw one of them. It looked like a little girl in a grimy white dress.

“Hey there,” I said very slowly as I very slowly pulled my phone out and thumbed open the camera, “How are you doing there sweetheart?”

And I snapped a whole blast of pictures of her, but she was gone in the blink of an eye.

“Did you say something?” The lady asked, coming back into the room.

“Nope,” I said, because the thing is that if her place really is haunted then it is way out of my league. So I did my thing and said my mantras and then after the lady paid me I said I was going to be out of town for awhile so if a follow-up was needed she’d have to call somebody else.

I was halfway home before I looked down at my photo on the passenger seat and I saw the little girl’s face pressed right up against the screen. I could see her blinking and watching me.

And that freaked the shit out of me.

I flipped the phone over until I found street parking outside my place. I cut the engine and I very delicately lifted up the phone, but she was gone. Just my regular lock screen. So real quick I unlocked it and went into my photos and there she was. There were about a dozen pictures of her there in the lady’s house, but she was moving in all of them, moving in unison in each of them; she was looking at me again.

I selected them all super fast with the tip of my finger, and then deleted them all.

Just for good measure I went into my deleted folder and deleted them all again.

But I was crawling into bed just now, I plugged my phone in and I switched off the lights and I was just drifting off when I noticed the grimy white rectangle of light flickering on my ceiling. Very slowly I picked up the phone and I very carefully tilted the screen toward me and there she was again, watching me from inside the screen.

“I deleted you!” I yelled at her.

But she didn’t say anything. She just watched me.

When she finally disappeared somewhere behind the time and date on the lock screen I went back in and double checked, but yeah, the photos were gone. But then I went and looked at the memory in my phone and the photo library is taking up almost all the room on my phone. I can’t even do anything with it. Nothing will open, nothing will run. It’s like the whole phone is dead now, with just that awful little ghost girl wandering around inside it now.


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