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Thursday, August 19, 2010

some of those monsters look pretty scary

After minor delays the plane began boarding quickly; rows 8-15 first, then 16-24 and so on. All the rows had been called as the passengers waited patiently for the stragglers to board. The Howe clan were the last to board; mom, dad and their three children bumped down the aisle loaded with car seats and backpacks.

Mother Howe, dressed in a spring pastel sweater and Capri pants, held a young baby who made eye contact with those in the aisle seats which elicited smiles from the otherwise dour faces. An unblinking, serious toe headed girl of three held tight to her Dora “mochilla” backpack as if it were the floatation device located under the seat that may save her life. Father Howe brought up the rear with the eldest Howe child, a young boy of eight.

Father Howe instructed the boy to sit in seat 8B, the middle seat between two men.

“Don’t you worry folks we’ll take good of this young buck,” said the large man in the window seat. His head was shaped like a butternut squash standing on its stem. His large forehead, splattered with kool-aid colored sunspots, glistened with sweat. The man smiled and swayed as the boy took his seat.

“Austin, we are right behind you in row 15. If you need anything just stand up and we’ll be right there, okay honey.” Mother Howe looked unsettled and wouldn’t lose that look until they landed safely in Detroit.

“Oh don’t you worry about a thing. He is in good hands.” The man laughed and smiled at Austin who was busy fussing with his seat belt.
The cabin hummed with the ambient sound of indistinct conversation, shuffled magazines and the clicking of seat belts.

“Austin, my name is Ken.” Said the man in the window seat as if he were speaking to an English as a second language student.

“Hello,” Austin said tightening up his seat belt . He began to pilfer through the pouch in front of him pulling out the in-flight magazine.

“We were just talking about college football.” Ken said motioning to the man in the aisle seat who had buried himself in a book anxious to discontinue the conversation with Ken who was obviously drunk.

“This is Austin,” Ken said as way of introductions.

“I’m Steve,” said the man in the aisle seat.

“Steve, I’m Ken, very pleased to meet you,” Ken said.

“Nice to meet you,” Steve said rushing to stare into his book again.

“See,” Ken said to Austin, “now we all know each other’s name. “Isn’t that great?” Ken maintained his contrived enthusiasm as if he was the host of a children’s TV game show.

“Do you like football Austin?” he asked motioning as if he were passing a ball.

“Yeah, I guess,” said Austin looking for headphones in the pouch but finding none.

“Austin have you ever flown in a plane before?” Ken asked.

“Uh-huh,” replied Austin who was now rifling through his backpack pulling out brand new, unopened packs of collector cards.

“Well you don’t have to worry about a thing young man. Steve and I will take real good care of you. Right Steve?”

Steve flashed a quick smile, “Uh-huh,”. He glanced at Austin and thought, Poor kid, stuck next to this pickled stoop for the next two and half hours. Well, better him than me. Steve chuckled to himself.

The pilot announced over the p.a. that flight attendants should prepare for take off.

“You know what that means Austin, don’tcha?” Ken asked not waiting for a response. “It means we are getting ready for take off. How exciting. Vroom,” Ken made an airplane with his hand taking off from the runway of the arm of his blue blazer. “Exciting eh?”

Austin was flipping through his cards attentively. He nodded.

Steve had scooted as far to the aisle as his seat would allow never breaking eye contact with his book for fear Ken may try to include him in the inane conversation.
“Austin your Mommy and Daddy are right behind us, so don’t worry,” Ken said patting young Austin on the leg. Steve scooted just a bit farther to the aisle.

Austin flipped through another pack of cards thinking how he hasn’t called his parents Mommy and Daddy since he was five. He snuck a glance at Ken who was beaming a big smile at him. Austin quickly looked away and scooted just a bit closer to Steve.

Ken leaned over real close to Austin to look at the cards he was holding. Austin automatically switched to mouth breathing as the fusil stench of campfire and yeasted bread assaulted his air space. Austin looked up hoping the oxygen mask would somehow drop from the ceiling.

“Watcha’ got there?” Ken asked.

“Pokeman cards,” he replied, “I collect them.”

“Wow! Would ya’ take a look at those? Some of those monsters look pretty scary. Did I tell you I was in the Navy?”

“Speaking of scary,” someone in the row behind cracked.

The plane took off. Austin looked past Ken out the window. His stomach sunk when the plane became airborn. Ken’s eyes were closed tight. He clinched the armrest tightly. As the plane flew higher and higher the view from Austin’s seat became less and less interesting so he dug through his pack and brought out a book of puzzles and a pencil.

After the plane had reached a cruising altitude Ken relaxed again returning to his overtly demonstrative self.

“The pilot has turned off the fasten seat belt sign. Please feel free to move about the cabin,” The p.a. announced.

“Oh boy Austin, you know what that means don’tcha? The drink cart can’t be far behind,” Ken said with true excitement.

This did excite Austin. Both Austin and Ken sat up in their seats with necks craned watching the painfully slow progress as the drink cart inched up the aisle.

“What can I get you to drink sir?” the stewardess asked Ken.

“May I please have a cup of ice and a cup of water,” he answered proficiently.

Steve looked up from his book surprised at the drink order. Hmm, he thought, I was banking he’d order a double gin and tonic.
Austin ordered a pepsi.

“A pepsi, huh Austin? That is really great. You’ll really enjoy that, and how ‘bout that, a little bag of salted peanuts. What a treat.”

Austin carefully poured his soda into the cup of ice and studied his puzzle magazine.
Before Steve had even poured his apple juice Ken had reached into his briefcase and pulled out a fifth of scotch. I knew it, Steve thought.

Ken became very quite. With great intensity he began to pour himself a scotch on the rocks with a splash of water. Steve and Austin set down their books and watched as Ken unscrewed the cap, took a deep whiff of the scotch, and rested the lip of the bottle of the rim of the cup. Ken’s tongue was sticking out the corner of his mouth as his carefully began pouring the liquor over the ice.

“Watcha’ drinking there huh Ken?” asked Austin abruptly startling the hell of Ken who jerked his pouring hand back and spilled the contents of the cup and bottle all over the fold out tray and onto Austin’s nice new traveling slacks. The liquor drained off the tray into Austin’s open backpack.

Ken turned red and splotchy. “Oh crap, jesus Christ, can someone get me some napkins please.” Steve offered his napkin. Ken grabbed the napkin and began dapping at his lap. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to need more than that, thank you.”
The stewardess soon arrived with a few more napkins. “I need a whole stack of napkins for Christ sake,” Ken’s eager smile was replace by thin lipped frustration. He madly mopped up his pants and tray. He slammed up the fold out tray and bolted past Austin and Ken toward the lavatory.

The air around Austin now stank like Ken’s breath. Austin switched back to mouth breathing. From his backpack he pulled out comic books, a sticker album, snacks and stuffed pig. All were saturated with booze. Austin looked at Steve, “Excuse me, I’m going to see my parents,” he said.

When Steve saw Ken walking down the aisle a few minutes later Ken was smiling. Is that bastard actually strutting? Steve wondered. Ken arrived at row eight. His smile instantly dissipated. Austin was no longer sitting in the middle seat. It was a grown man, Austin’s father. Father Howe stood up to let Ken pass.

Row eight, seats A, B and C were silent for the rest of the trip to Detroit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

fool bee

Fool bumble bee flew right into my gaping maw and stung my tender lip.
The experience was not only alarming and painful but has left my mouth swollen and asymmetrical.

What really made me upset however, was I overheard the fool bee, sans pulsating poison sack and stinger, in his death spiral toward the awaiting earth say "Dumb ass talk too much anyway."

Friday, July 9, 2010

When the Levee Breaks

After graduation a bunch of guys from our class and me and Nate rented a house near the university. None of us were planning to go to school there, or anywhere for that matter. Nate and I had the biggest room (we had to pay an extra $50 a month); we moved our stuff in. Well, I moved my stuff in, Nate brought over two milk crates stuffed with clothes, dirty clothes.

My mom came over to help me unpack. We hung a full length mirror on the back of the door and put a dust skirt around the bottom of the bed. My mom had saved a few pieces of furniture for me over the years because 'some day you’ll have an apartment of your own’ she said, ‘and you won’t want to spend your money on dressers and couches’. She was right except it wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend money on furnishings it’s that I didn’t have any money to spend on furnishings. Maybe that’s what she meant.

The dresser was from our old house on Leyden Sreet. It was in the room I shared with my sister Drea. When I pulled open the bottom drawer to put my t-shirts in I saw the big red ‘X’ she in drew in crayon. She had drawn on little piece of paper a treasure map and then hid the treasure under the dresser; a bag a skittles, a crooked little pony whose mane and tail had been “groomed” and a glittery wand.

Mom was sitting on the edge of the bed watching me; she looked tired.

Still in the truck was the gold couch with red and blue striping. ‘This was the first thing your father and I bought after we got married,’ she said. I had spent a good portion of my childhood watching T.V. on that couch. Before we moved it in my mom walked off four paces in our new room to see if the couch would fit.

“Jen, I don’t think there’s enough room in here for the couch. Maybe you and the boy’s would like it in the living room,” she suggested a little reluctantly.

“Oh I don’t know, Mom,” I said, “maybe you can just hold onto it until Nate and I get a place of our own.”

We walked out to the living room and three of my new roommates were sitting on the floor in front of the T.V. playing video games.

“Would you guys like a couch?” she asked.

“Of course,” said Derek, by far the most socialized of the three.

“Well come help us get it out of the back of the truck,” she said.

Within in moments the couch was sitting in the living room with the guys sitting on it playing video games.

“Thanks, Ms. Donatello,” said Derek never looking up from the screen.

We walked out to the truck. “I’ve got to get this back to Trevor before five,” my mom said, “but I’ll pick you up on Monday at 11 and we’ll go out for lunch.”

“See you then. Love you.”

“Love you too Jen.”

As soon as my mom left the boys pulled out the three foot bong and started smoking.

“My sister and I use to build forts with that couch,” I said. They didn’t hear me.


When Nate got home later that night the other guys had made a beer run and some of their friends were hanging out, drinking, smoking and playing video games.

I was in our room lying on the bed. Nate came in with two beers.

“You want one?” he asked as he untied his work boots handing me a beer.

“How was work?” I asked.

“Good. Uncle Denny scored scrapping rights to an abandoned warehouse that use to make plastic bags. The landlord is paying us fifteen hundred bucks to take out a bunch of crap and we figure there is about six grand in copper wire we can salvage.”

Nate worked with his Uncle Denny salvaging scrap metal from everywhere and anywhere and then selling it to recycling centers. The price of copper and aluminum had sky rocketed in the past few years. They made pretty good money doing it. We spend a few evenings a week together peeling the insulation off electrical wire.

“Where did you guys eat lunch?” I asked.

“Oh, we went to Dos Palomas again. Denny has a thing for the chick working the cash registrar. He actually got digits today.”

“How old is she?” I asked knowing that she wouldn’t be over twenty. Denny had a thing for much younger women, and for some reason they seemed to have a thing for him. Nate just smiled.

“Julian has some ecstasy do want to do it? I can pay for your hit.” Nate said as he pilfered through a crate of his dirty clothes pulling out something, sniffing it and then putting it on.

“Yea, sure,” I said pulling a t-shirt out from the bottom drawer of the dresser, “try this on Nate. It’s too big for me but it might fit you.”


By midnight everyone was rolling. We had turned out all the lights, lit candles and Nate and I had built a fort with the couch cushions. It was our own little world. I set up an alter on top of a shoebox covered in a muslin scarf.

“Put something special on it,” I said to Nate.

He reached in his pocket and set up his zippo.

I ran to our new room and got the Ganesh statue I gave Nate for his birthday, a couple of quartz crystals my friend Marie gave me and some rose scented massage oil. In case we stayed in the fort all night I grabbed “emergency supplies”; beer, fruit (to ward off the scurvy), flashlight, and a small radio that was stuck on the Mexican radio station. Musica Romantica.

Bésame, bésame mucho
Como si fuera esta noche
La última vez
Bésame, bésame mucho
Que tengo miedo a perderte
Perderte después

Kiss me, kiss me a lot,
As if tonight was
the last time.
Kiss me, kiss me a lot,
Because I fear to lose you,
To lose you again.

With his zippo I lit a little candle. The inside of the fort transformed into a golden cave of flickering light.

The shadow of Ganesh cast a large shadow on the couch cushions. Nate and I tripped out on it.

“Everyone outside the fort is crazy,” I said.

Nate took my hand and started to massage it. He poured some scented oil in his hand, rubbed them together building warmth and then clasped my hands. My stomach fell as I gasped. Our eyes were locked, our mouths parted, our breath syncing.

“I love you soooo much Nate.” I whispered as we undressed.

“I love you too!” he whispered back as he poured massage oil onto my stomach.

Everything turned electric. Our skin melted together. Our energy passed through each other. Everything became a golden flickering bliss of roses, oil, me and him and oh fuck yes

“I think I got some on the couch cushion,” said Nate as we lay together catching our breath.

We laughed a rolling laugh that tumbled out of us.


Outside the fort, in the world of crazies, the front door slammed open.

“Masternate? Where are you Masternate?” The voice tore us out of our womb like a back alley abortion. “Come drink some Jager with me you fucking pussy!”

“Fuck, it’s Jimmy,” said Nate as he scrambled to get dressed.

Jimmy is the worst. He is an old friend of Nate’s and still has some macho control over him.

“Just relax Nate,” I said rubbing his back.

“Derek where’s Masternate?” Jimmy asked, “What the fuck is going on here? Turn on some lights and let’s play quarters or something.”

“We were just going down the park,” said Derek, “but Nate and Jen are around here somewhere.”

We heard the door close behind Derek and company.

“Nate you have to get rid of him, please,” I pleaded.

“Okay give me a second to think, shit.” Nate said as he pulled on his shorts and slid out the “front door” of the fort. On his way out he knocked over the alter with his foot. Hot candle wax splashed onto the carpet and the cushions. The flame was extinguished by the time the candle hit the floor.

“Fuckin’ Jimmy, what the fuck are you doing here? I thought you were still in Pueblo.” I heard Nate say in an affected “dude bro’” tone.

“Way to tell me you guys were having a party asshole. What the fuck is going on in here?” He paused as, I assume, he looked over the scene. “Nice fort dick weed.”

Jimmies words wrapped around my stomach and squeezed. I was no longer high; I wanted to puke.

“Are you going to drink some Jager with me or what?” He asked Nate again.

“Hell yeah man! Pour it up!”

I sat quietly in the dark fort listening and picking at the dried wax on the carpet. Nate, Nate, Nate? What the fuck are you doing? Get rid of him. Shot glasses clanked on the counter.

“Cheers asshole!” said Jimmy.

“Cheers cum guzzler!” said Nate.

Oh fuck, I thought, this cannot be happening. Cheers cum guzzler? Nate? Really?

“Put on some tunes,” commanded Jimmy.

“What do want to hear?”

Zep, I predicted.

“Let’s get the Led out!” Jimmy said.

If Nate puts on House of the Holy I am so out of here.

The intro starts … “Since I’ve been loving you.”

Nate is not as dumb as he looks. I’m not a Zeppelin fan, but god I love this song.

Said I've been crying, my tears they fell like rain,
Don't you hear, Don't you hear them falling,
Don't you hear, Don't you hear them falling.

Gropping around in the dark for my clothes I pick up the zippo, candle and Ganesh putting them in the shoebox we used for the alter.

“Put on Zep Four dude, this song kinda sucks,” Jimmy said.

The music stops and then…if it’s stairway to heaven I will personally pour lighter fluid on both those assholes and light them of fire…When The Levee Breaks.

The fort collapsed when I crawled out.

“Jen, what the fuck?” Jimmy asked as I walked past him toward our room.

He grabbed my wrist and spun me toward him.

“You are so fucking high.” He laughed. “Check this out,” He put his hands next to my face and started making little karate chop motions, “you're running down the hall, you turn left, you're running…” Oh god I want to knee you in the balls so fucking bad.

I walked away.

“Fine be that way,” he laughed. “Dude, Jen is such a stoner.” I closed the door before I could hear how my “boyfriend” would respond to that insult.

Before laying down I set up the alter on the dresser and light the candle. My stomach began to unclench as I watched the flame dance in the dark and reflect off Ganesh’s large blue head. He looked like he was swaying. The little radio played another Mexican love song.

Reloj no marques las horas
porque voy a enloquecer
ella se ira para siempre
cuando amanezca otra vez
Nomas nos queda esta noche

para vivir nuestro amor
y tu tic-tac me recuerda
mi irremediable dolor

Clock, don't mark the hours
Because I'm going to become crazy
She will leave for forever
When its dawn again

We only have this night
To live our love
And this tick tock reminds me of
My unrepairable pain


My pillow absorbed my tears.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Edge of Convict

The seat on Jake’s bike had broken off leaving a rusty pipe sticking up from the crossbar. On more than one drunken ride home Jake had forgotten the bike’s dysfunction and poked himself right on the buckeye. Phil queried if it truly was an inebriated mistake or more possibly a desperate attempt to self stimulate.

On this January day Jake stood on his pedals carefully pumping them around in the freezing cold. Jake’s outermost of six total layers was a beat corduroy jacket with worn elbows and a fur collar. He actually made money when he bought the jacket at the second hand store, there was three hundred dollars in large bills in the front pocket. After a night of hedonistic debauchery Jake figured all he bought with the windfall was an expensive hangover. Jake confessed he was sorry that one of the dimwitted kids who worked at the thrift store didn’t find the money, he was sure they would have put the loot to better use.

The moisture from Jake’s breath froze on his scarf like tiny chrystal balls. Even under the bright winter sun the temperature hadn’t topped -10. As Jake road his bike down the wide side streets of Convict his eyes watered and froze to his face.

Now the cold settles in Convict, Colorado. The cold spot use to be up valley in a small town called Chimeron but when the Army core of engineers flooded the valley to make a reservoir it pushed the cold air down 15 miles on top of Convict. Since the flooding of the upper river valley Convict has earned the infamous reputation as the coldest spot in the USA. Negative thirty was not uncommon for a January day nor was sunshine. 50 years ago a hotel in town offered a free nights lodging if the sun didn’t shine in Convict at some point during the day, a proprietary risk that the innskeep intended to capitalize on, and with an average of 360 days of sunshine generally did.

Hug’s was the forgotten gas station outside of town. For some reason cigarettes were a dollar cheaper there and so it was worth the half mile ride out of town; even in the snapping cold. A tangible seal was broken between the soft warmth of the Hug’s gas station and the sharp cold of outside when Jake opened the door. Even though the same handful of customers breech the threshold of Hug’s each day just to buy cigarettes Emad, the Iranian shopkeep, treats them with the same routine professionalism. If it were your first trip or your three hundred and seventh trip it was always the same greeting. Emad would offer a warm ‘hello’ while make a grand sweep with his arm to show off all the goods Hug’s Food and Gas has to offer. Emad would then return his gaze to the three ring binder of daily inventory spreadsheets allowing you to shop in peace. Despite his invitation to browse the rows of crappy food and windshield washer fluid ninty-nine percent of his customers b-lined for the counter and asked for smokes. As if torn from pressing business but eager to provide exemplary customer service Emad would look up from his binder and ask ‘did you find everything you were looking for?’ Jake had once answered honestly and said ‘actually I am looking for a decent manual pencil sharpener.’ The next time he went in there were a half a dozen x-acto brand pencil sharpeners at $21.99 each hanging on a peg board display.

Since that time Jake ignored Emad’s introductory question and would reply ‘Hey Emad, how are ya? Just a pack of Drum, no lighters, no rolling papers, and no porn thanks.’ Jake had also made the mistake of buying a Club magazine from Hug’s and for six months after that Emad would make a production of letting him know when the new issue was in.

The Regal Rancher Inn was on the south side of the highway and so enjoyed the prime winter sun. Jake leaned his bike on a post and planted himself on the bench absorbing some sunshine, smoked a cigarette and watched the pick-up trucks roll by.

Phil pulled up to the curb in his cream colored Volkswagen Jetta that overnights in a heated garage and so the hood was conspicuously absent of snow. Phil was from the South and was notoriously underdressed. Jake watched him walk up the street in low top chuck taylors with no socks, a pair of jeans, and a denim long sleeve shirt with a logo embroidered on the right brest. No hat, no gloves, not even a sweater.

“It’s fucking freezing out here.” Phil said as he approached.

“No shit Phil.” Jake replied.

“How can you sit out here smoking cigarettes and ride your goddam bike around?” Phil asked.

“My bike is my only mode of transportation.” Jake responded taking a drag of his cigarette. “You’re the only guy I know that owns a car, Phil. The more common of us ride bikes or walk.”

“Not me man, too fuckin’ cold out here.” Phil chattered.

Phil moved to Paradise Mountain, a ski resort town about 30 miles north of Convict, a year ago from Athens, Georgia where he majored in Business. He now lives in his parent’s condo, one of three that they own in different exotic locations, and sells weed. Phil and Jake worked together at the South American turned Thai restaurant at the bottom of the ski slopes. Jake liked working with Phil because Phil had nothing to lose and so would make his own rules. The restaurant was struggling for an identity and as far as the owners knew Phil’s just might work. One night an ”investing partner” walked into the kitchen and asked Phil if he had paid for his shift meal. Phil told him to leave the kitchen and he did. After that incident they offered him a management position and fired him a week later. Phil hasn’t worked since.

Jake and Phil entered the Regal Rancher and sat in a booth by the front window. When the door opened the cold air rushed in sending fresh clouds of steam from their cups of coffee. A family of four towns folk could slip into the Regal Rancher door without letting hot air out or cold air in. In contrast, one tourist and his wife on their way to Paradise Mountain could, with a great deal of awkward pretension, drain the heat from the entire joint as they fumbled about trying to look as if they eat there all the time.

The Regal Rancher offered a common diner menu but boasted the biggest pancake in the state. It was huge, easily the size of a hub-cap. On Jake’s first visit to the Regal Rancher he ordered the monster cake out of pure curiosity. From that day forward Jake allowed other gastronomical impulses guide his ordering. .

“Did I tell you I saw Bill Watterson when I visited my sister in Ohio last summer?” Jake mentioned to Phil after the waitress took their order.

Phil wasn’t listening. He was to busy looking over Jake’s head out the window at, Jake presumed, his car.

“I didn’t even know you had a sister.” Phil answered.

“Well I do and she lives in Ohio in the same town as Bill Watterson, so I was kind of on the look out for him. I mean ninety-nine percent of the people who read his stuff would never even know if he was sitting next to them on the bus. Not that Bill Watterson would need to take the bus, I’m sure he is loaded beyond belief.” Jake sipped his coffee, “I guess he’s really into painting landscapes.”

“Bill Watterson,” Phil looked at Jake as if he just registered he was at the table. “You mean the guy who wrote Calvin and Hobbes?”

“Yes Man, I’m telling you, he lives in the same town in Ohio as my sister, and I saw him in the hardware store.”

“Did you say anything to him or get his autograph?” Phil was looking at Jake with great intensity.

“Of course, that’s how I know he is into painting landscapes. I went up to him and said ‘Bill Watterson, I think your comics are beyond brilliant, thank you so much.’ He said thanks and that now he is really into painting landscapes. Then he walked out with a bag in his hand. I said to the gal at the registrar ‘holy shit that was Bill Watterson’ and she said she knew that.”

Phil said, finally present, “Did the girl at the registrar even know who Bill Watterson is?”

“I asked her ‘do you know who Bill Watterson is?’ She said ‘sure he’s the guy who just left.’ I pressed her ‘you know the comic Calvin and Hobbes?’ She said she didn’t.” Phil’s eyes widened.

Jake continued. “I couldn’t believe it Bill Watterson lives in her home town, she knows him by name but doesn’t know he is the single greatest living comic strip writer in the frickin’ nation. I was in total disbelief so I continued to press her ‘you know the comic strip about the messy haired six year old and his friend a stuffed tiger?’ ‘That doesn’t sound familiar.’ She said.”

“Unbelievable,” Phil interjected.

“Wait it gets worse, so I said ‘you know that little messy haired kid on the back of all those pick-ups who is pissing on Ford’s or Chevys or whatever with a mischievous grin on his face?’ When I said this she freaked fuckin’ out ‘oh my god!’ she said ‘he invented that little kid.’

“She freaked out because she thought she knew the guy who invented the Calvin decal?” Phil asked in disbelief.

“Yes, man that’s what I’m telling you. Isn’t that crazy. This gal thinks that’s all there is to Calvin, a mischievous little fuck who hates another brand of truck so much that he pisses on it’s logo.”

“That is so very sad.” Phil sighed and looked down at his feet. “I love those comics.”

Phil was obviously high. He couldn’t get warm and sat in the booth shivering. He would start in on a topic of conversation and end it quickly with ‘nothing, man it’s too fucked up.’ Phil had wonderful conspiracy theory’s about the federal reserve bank, the gold tassels on the American Flag in U.S. courtrooms, ‘that is a maritime flag which puts you under maritime law.’ and other injustices. He threatened to bring in his own flag to the courtroom if he was busted for anything. Phil was good on the initial set up for the conspiracy but had little to back it up with. Jake once asked what exactly it means to be under maritime jurisdiction. Phil answered ‘nothing man, it’s too fucked up.’

It was a month and a half before Jake returned to the Hug’s gas station for smokes. He had been sick with bronchitis and swore if he ever got well again he would quit smoking. The windows of the Hug’s were steamed up. When Jake entered he didn’t smell the usual disinfectant and slushie syrup combo but curry. Emad greeted Jake with the usual hello and hand sweep. However, this time his arm continued until it arrived upon a rotating cyclone of pressed meat on a spit surrounded by heating elements.

“Gyros,” Emad said with great pride. “Hug’s now offers Gyros sandwiches.”

Jake looked at the rotating meat sizzling under the red heat coils and said, “Sorry Emad I don’t eat meat.”

Emad’s arm returned to his side and his face dropped. Jake could see he was crestfallen. “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Emad asked disheartend.

“Just a pack of Drum, no lighters, no rolling papers and no porn, thanks Emad.” Jake responded automatically.

On his way out the door Jake noticed the half dozen x-acto pencil sharpeners still hanging on the peg board display.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Skin of Mylar

In the mid morning against the cathedral wall, under the shade of the giant Indian laurel tree on the zocolo of Oaxaca City stand a row of men selling brilliantly colored balloons. Ten men, a thousand balloons between them stand at attention, spines straight with the aid of helium contained in the balloons that pull skyward like a tethered draft horse. The morning is fresh and the streets freshly swept.

Grandfather takes his grandson for a walk along the zocolo, meandering through the crowds and vendors; they take their time. Grandfather buys a newspaper. They sit at an outdoor café. Grandfather orders café con leche and a juice for his grandson. Grandfather reads his paper as grandson walks his fingers along the table jumping the silverware and sliding them across the plate. He makes the sounds of a laser and a bomb as his fingers dodge and jump unseen foes. Grandfather lowers the paper and looks at the boy. “Mijo, tomas tu jugo.” He returns to his paper. Grandfather sips his coffee.

The table next to them is filled with tourists. They have spread maps across the table and are planning their day. It is early yet they have already ordered another round of beers. The boy sips his juice and listens to the strange language they speak and begins kicking his legs under the table. A woman approaches the table of tourists, she is compressed by time, she is the size of a young girl, her long grey hair is woven into braids with ribbons, a bright woven shawl is across her shoulders, she is selling hand carved wooden book marks and spoons. The tourists do not look at her. “No gracias.” One says. She lingers for a while at the table. No one looks up. The tourists stare intently at their maps. She walks away.

Another woman, smaller and older than the first, bent over as if carrying a heavy load approaches the table of tourists. She is not selling anything, but holds out her hand. She is begging. The boy notices her hands; they are as brown as grandfather’s coffee and freckled. Her knuckles are knotted, her fingers twisted. The boy looks at her face; it is covered in freckles, her eyes yellow, and her nose broad, ear lobes long and rubbery. He loses interest in his juice. The tourists do not look at her. She approaches the table with the boy and grandfather, hand extended. Grandfather puts his paper down. “Buenos dia, abuela.” He says to her. “Buenos” she returns. Grandfather reaches into his pocket and retrieves a five peso coin and gives it to her. “Gracias.” She says. The boy looks at the table of tourist. One of the women at the table smiles at him. The boy looks away.

Grandfather and grandson walk past the men selling balloons. The boy slows his pace and looks up into the canopy of balloons, his mouth open, and his eyes wide. “Sponge Bob.” He says to grandfather pointing into the mass of balloons. Although the boy has never seen the cartoon he knows Sponge Bob and loves him. Grandfather looks up into the balloons. “Azure por favor.” He says to the man selling balloons. The man hands the boy the balloon and grandfather pays him.

The boy handles the balloon with great caution. It is so full with helium that there are no wrinkles in the seams. The boy is scared of the balloon. It may pop. He carefully taps the balloon. The sound is sharp and wonderful. His grandfather ties the string to his wrist. The boy releases the balloon and it races to the end of its tether. The boy feels more secure knowing if the balloon popped now at least it would be away from him. He picks up his pace and continues to walk along side his grandfather, his eyes moving from the balloon to his feet and back again.
Grandfather watches the boy and smiles. He is amazed at how much joy a five peso balloon can bring a child. He remembers when the boy came over to his apartment with shoes that lit up when he walked. The boy had him turn off all the lights. He danced for hours. When it was time for a nap the boy asked if he could sleep in his shoes. Grandfather smiled and obliged.

They return to grandfather’s apartment. The boy stays in the parlor chasing his balloon as grandfather prepares lunch. In the kitchen he unwraps the corn tortillas and puts them in a pan with oil. He covers the soft tortillas with a enfrijoladas sauce and tops it with queso blanco and thinly sliced onions. In heavy bottomed glasses he pours tea made from hibiscus flowers and sugar. The boy comes into the kitchen and asks grandfather if he would tie the balloon to the back of his chair. Grandfather obliges.

The phone rings and grandfather goes into his room to retrieve it. The boy unties the balloon and notices there are wrinkles in the seams and when he taps the balloon it is no longer a sharp sound but a deeper thud. The boy takes the balloon into the parlor and lets it free. The balloon drifts up to the high ceiling. The boy jumps for the string but it is just out of his reach. He climbs on the credenza to get a better vantage point. He still cannot get the balloon so he crawls down and gets a broom from the kitchen. He returns to the parlor again climbs on the credenza and smacks the balloon with the broom handle.

Grandfather hangs up the phone and is distraught with the stress of bills. He walks into the parlor and sees the boy climbing on the furniture and scolds him sharply. Abashed the boy climbs down from the credenza and looks longingly up at the balloon. Grandfather returns to his room and to his bills. Grandfather sighs. He listens for sounds of the boy playing with the balloon but hears nothing. Grandfather smiles to himself and walks into the parlor. The boy is sitting cross legged under the balloon staring at it. The balloon is no longer stuck fast to the ceiling but drifts a few inches below it. Grandfather reaches up and grabs the string and returns the balloon to the boy. The boy hugs the balloon and feels it give under his embrace. He reaches to hug grandfather but the old man has turned away.

The boy taps the balloon and it is soft. The boy stands on the string and begins punching the balloon. The balloon gives under each blow and returns slowly for more.
By evening the balloon is shriveled and weakened, floating a few feet off the ground.

Grandfather naps after his mezcal. The boy tosses his stuffed monkey into the air chasing it through the jungles of his imagination.

In the evening on the zocolo where the men stood selling balloons now stand carts selling hamburgers, tacos and tamales late into the night.

my seeds have been planted and will not be so again

I had a vasectomy on Wednesday.

I was not anxious about the procedure; I approached it like I approach every other appointment I have in my life, "Oh shit, that's today!"

Luckily I was able to get the scrip filled for valium and vicadin on short order and was able to ingest one of each an hour before the procedure.

I am comfortable with inebriation; I have loads of experience with it. The valium and vicadin made me feel good.

The nurse handled my junk. "you didn't shave," she was not impressed.

"No, I totally forgot."

"Hmm, I'll look for a razor." she left me in the chair.

She returned with the Doctor who pulled out a double edged razor. Just the razor. His hands were trembling. My eyes grew wide.

"Two martini lunch doc?" I ask.

"No that's why I'm trembling so bad." deadpan.

A smile? Please be a smile. Yes a smile.

As a long time restaurant guy I am use to getting meals, drinks, desserts, shows, tattoos discounted or comped.

"What do you do for a living?" asked the doctor.

I answer.

"Are you kidding, I go to City,O' City after yoga and take all my vegetarian dates to WaterCourse. I spent my honeymoon in Puerto Escondido!"

"Is your insurance going to cover the procedure?" he asks.


"Just send me the bill I'll take care of it." he says.

Thanks Doc.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Stepping cautiously from the busted up side walk, looking both ways for oncoming traffic I follow Daniel across Ave de Chapultepec as he steps wisely through his city.

We pass smart, gently lit up cafe´s, a jazz club, a couple of corner white tablecloth bistro´s to an outdoor walk up bar. We order two mezcals before we continue on our way through the Condessa, a developed restaurant and bar neighborhood just outside downtown Mexico City.

Ducking into a nameless tapas bar Daniel tells me. "In Mexico City there is only one rule. Open your eyes."

After a few tapas and a couple more shots of mezcal we walk outside where Daniel can take in a smoke.

As I sat I watched, a man in harache sandals push a large display of luchadora masks down the colonial street, followed by a guy pushing a billowing, steel drum stove, in which he roasts and sells sweetroots dipped in sugar, just like has been done on that avenue since the 16th century.

Thanks for the advice Daniel.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The worst soup, an Easter tale

The old, old women in the spring loaded reclining chair that raises the seated into a standing position is my grandmother. Physically. Her brain is tired, they call it dementia, she does not know who I am when I walk into her room. It is Easter Sunday and my entire family is coming to the nursing home that day to celebrate with her.

Seated in the recliner facing the window she is dressed in a terry cloth sweat suit and on her feet are gold keds with glittery laces.

"Happy Easter Lolly," I say, breathing through my mouth, which I will continue to do until I leave the nursing home. The smell of industrial Easter Brunch, fecal matter and disinfectant makes my head and stomach churn.

"Well hello there," Lolly says as I enter the room.

"It's your grandson Dan," I say.

"Oh, Danny," a brief hint of recognition reflects in her eyes.

I am the first person from my family to arrive. The nurse informs me they are dying Easter eggs in the dining room if I would like to take Lolly down to participate. With the help of the nurse I get Lolly into a wheel chair and take her down the hall, passing open doored rooms with old folks watching TV.

A group of old, old people are sitting around a table. The events coordinator, an enthusiastic young nurse, is adding color tablets to bowls of vinegar. She welcomes Lolly and I.

At the head of the table, dressed in a pink and green terry cloth sweat suit, is Lucille . She is looking perky and coiffed for the special day. Of the group she is definitely the most excited for the activity.

"I use to dye easter eggs when I was a girl," she informs the table of very uninterested old folks.

"Really?" I prompt.

"Oh yes, I just love dying Easter eggs," she says. "My sister's and I would just love to dye Easter eggs."

The events coordinator had passed out the bowls of dye, a couple of hard boiled eggs, and a soup spoon to retrieve the dyed egg to each person around the table.

Lucille was still carrying on about Easter on the farm and how much fun they would have.

As I was helping Lolly dye an egg, I hear Lucille complaining, "ew, ew, ew,".

I look over at her; bowl of dye in front of her, teeth and lips stained bright red, soup spoon in hand, a repulsed look on her face.
"This is the worst soup I've ever had," she says, lips pulled back, eyes watering, but, remarkably, with an undaunted enthusiasm.

Friday, April 2, 2010

To ingratiate

Ingratiate is a good word.

Ingratiate –verb.
to establish (oneself) in the favor or good graces of others, esp. by deliberate effort.

Om is from Bhutan but he grew up as a refugee in Nepal, he and his family are now refugees in this country. Anday is a refugee from Ethiopia, he pronounces it Utopia. Anday's family is still in Ethopia along with his 3 dogs and a cat. The scars on his cheek bones look like they were made by the flick of a razor blade. They are both 21 years old.

21 year old men trying to get paid, documentation, friends, security, status, girlfriends, etc. in a foreign country. Not just any foreign country but the United States of America, not just any State in the United States but Colorado, not just anywhere in Colorado but Denver.

Some how, some way, these two cats ended up working on Hazel Rah Farm. What are the chances?

5,000,000,000,000 to 2.

They stepped to the farm for their first day of work looking sharp, too sharp for farm work. Their shoes were the first thing I noticed, clean, low top, stylish. The shoes were not going to look so good in the evening.

Anday greeted our big dog Tommy with a pat on the head. Om shrank back. I don’t like big dogs, he said.

They handled the large shovels awkwardly and exchanged them for the spade and Henry’s little shovel. Farming tools are different in Nepal, Om informed me.

They worked that first brisk morning turning the soil in the beds. A little shoveling, a little looking around, a little shoveling, a little looking around, taking it all in, the dogs, the chickens, the kids, me, Michelle, the land. Everything.

With fresh eggs from the hens Michelle prepared quiche for lunch with some mixed vegetables and potato chips on the side.

With great deftness and efficency I tore into my lunch consuming it much too fast.

Anday and Om struggled to control their knife and fork as they cut each bite awkwardly from their slice of quiche. Like the large shovels, silverware is a foreign tool in their hands.

Michelle’s heart swelled as she observed Om applying his utensils to a potato chip.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Davie's Chuck Wagon

Facing south, standing in the freshly turned soil of our one acre farm in Lakewood I can see the hat of the 30 foot cowboy that stands as a sentinel in front of Davie's Chuck Wagon, the 1950's style diner on Colfax. On cold mornings the diner’s front windows steam up as men in flannel shirts and dickies work jackets order steak and eggs sipping their thin coffee, unaware and uncaring of the burnt beans origin or it’s blend. This is where they start their work day. As the sun rises on the far horizon of east Colfax it catches it’s reflection on Davie’s chrome skin like approaching headlights on an airstream.

Monday, March 29, 2010

mastication blues

It had been so long since Hamilton had had a date that the libido that once controlled his life had shriveled up and drifted to the soft flesh under his arm becoming a mole in the shape of a trumpet. He can't remember when all his shoes became slip on or all his pants elastic waisted. He just remembers the night he spent $200 on dinner and drinks for the "sure thing" only for her to get drunk and grope the crotch of a college boy who ended up taking her home. On the cold walk home, in stiff loafers and thin socks, he swore to his heart he would never subject it to that pain again. It was at this moment his libido took the cue and seperated from his id, beginning it's withered migration toward his armpit.

Hamilton's one room studio reflected his personal commitment to hygenie.

"Mother of God," said Hamilton looking at the pile of dishes in the sink. He opened the fridge only to find a smattering of condiments in the door and on the top shelf, a box of arm and hammer.

Pulling on sweatpants over frayed boxer briefs, Hamilton looked in his wallet. "Enough for a burrito," he said with a clip, and left the studio for the street below.

"Beautiful," he said as he exited his apartment building, watching a squatting great dane shed an enormous glistening dump. Hamilton closed one eye and gave the dog a thumbs up. "Nice."

Hamilton shook his head as the person holding the dog's leash continued to talk on the phone. "Real nice,"

Hamilton pulled open the door of the corner burrito joint. "One please," he informed the Mexican women who was in the middle of taking the order from three men in cheap suits with name placards pinned to their blazer lapels. She looked up and pointed to the patio.

Hamilton took a seat outside next to the low iron fence that was a few feet away from on coming traffic. He looked at the menu then opened up his wallet again.

"One bean and rice burrito please,"

"Smothered?," asked the waitress.

Again he looked in his wallet and did a quick calculation "Yes,"

"Red o Green chile?"

"Which is hotter?" He asked.

"The Green," she said.

"Than I would like the red."

The patio began to fill up as Hamilton waited for his burrito. He conversed with himself about the dog incident shaking his head, mouthing his disgust silently.

The oncoming traffic would stop at the light and people would look over momentarily at the diners and then drive on when the light turned green.

The burrito arrived and Hamilton shoveled a bite in his mouth. The bite was hot so Hamilton opened his mouth wide between chews. He blew on the next bite before putting it in his mouth. He chewed loudly pushing the food past his teeth with his tongue. The masticated food made brief appearances to the public as he opened and closed his mouth. After a few bites he picked up the conversation about the shitting dog where he left off. Chewing and pushing the food past his teeth he continued talking to himself shaking his head.

A line of cars stopped at the stop light. While Freddie was sitting in his car waiting for the light to turn he looked over and saw Hamilton chewing with his mouth open, the burrito all but falling from his mouth back to the plate.

As the light turned green Freddie shouted, "Man chew wif yo fuckin' mouf closed, damn!" As he drove off he was heard saying "nasty ass mufucka'".

Hamilton looked around to see who this loudmouth was talking about.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

liberated teen- a really, really short play

Two high school kids are setting up for a science experiment.

Liberated teen to lab partner:

-What's this about a clique?

Lab partner looks at liberated teen astonished.


Friday, March 26, 2010

There before my very eyes...

Henry and Ruby were oblivious to my presence. I raked up leaves as they ran past encapsulated in a world of their own creation
"I'm a cheetah," said one, "me too," said the other. As I watched, something happened. Ruby crouched a little lower, Henry opened up his gait. There before my very eyes I watched them transform into cheetahs.

On St. Patrick's day we went over to Pam and Mark's house. Mark has an old out building he turned into a bar, equipped with a wood burning stove, a drum set, a record player with hundreds of records and a few lamps that put off soft lighting. Around the stove is a semi circle of stumps used for seats.
Mark told me, "During the last big snow storm I was out here sitting around the fire with a few friends drinking beer, listening to old records. The fire was cranking so we opened up the doors and watched the snow come down. I went out to get more wood and when I walked back in it felt like I just walked into a little bar in Tibet or something."
There before my very eyes this old out building in West Lakewood transformed into a little bar in Tibet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

what I think of life plans part II

This propensity many have to continually postulate and fret about the future, thus distracting them from the miraculous events unfolding before their very eyes belies a great insecurity and a desire to control that which is absolutely uncontrollable. People spend incredible amounts of energy worrying about what will happen next.

When my children were still very young my wife and I constantly defended our boy’s right to their natural and, thankfully, gradual process to maturity. When asked, and asked often, if they were walking yet, or talking yet, or eating solid foods yet, or out of diapers yet or reading yet my patent response was “Not yet, however, I’m fairly confident that Charley or Henry will not be the only child in the second grade who hasn’t learned to walk, or sports pull-ups under his big boy pants, or is still being feed rice meal, etc.” If I was less of an ass I could have simply responded “all in good time.” Alack.

You hear parents of babies say “I can’t wait until, fill in the name, be it Wayne, Charlotte, or Esmerelda, is, fill in the activity, be it walking, talking, or out of a car seat. I find those sentiments of anticipation unfortunate because in a very short time Esmerelda will be out of diapers, will stop nursing, will walk and then, in true fretful parent form, they pine for the days when Esmerelda was a baby. As parents of miracles what disagreeable circumstances to find yourself; constantly anxious for the future of your children and antithetically nostalgic for their past.

Oh well...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

what I think of life plans

I did not, in my early adolescence, have the clarity to answer the question often posed by adults “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with an answer that suited me. The question felt premature, as if somebody asking shortly after I jump into the pool “what do you want to do when you get out?” This line of questioning, “when you are not doing what you are presently doing what are you going to do?” is distracting and belies a selfishness on the part of the questioner. They are not so much interested in your plans as they are interested in you paying attention to them.

A subconscious motivation of the questioner is to cause a sense of anxiety in you similar to one they are currently feeling because they themselves are worried about what they will do when not doing what they are currently doing and thus think you should be too. Anxiety is infectious. A quick response to the posit in the pool analogy could be “I have no idea but, if you’ll excuse me, there are pressing aquatic matters that need my immediate and undivided attention." And then swim away from the questioner with great haste and continue to enjoy your treasured time in the pool.

Monday, March 22, 2010

perspective is easy to lose.

When reading historical accounts on a page in a book with neat black print on a clean white page, about the trail of tears, or the cramped conditions on slave ships, or the underground railroad it's easy to forget these events happened to actual people. People who had headaches, bladder infections, colicky babies and blisters. The events themselves are horrific, the physical hardships that were forced upon these people is way beyond my comprehension. What amazes me is they had to deal with all this on top of the brutality of simply being human.

Sometimes I wake up, after a full night's sleep, in a comfortable bed, next to the women I love, in a warm house with a full fridge in a terrible mood. Sometimes after a long days work in an environment filled with friends and food I come home petulant and cranky. Sometimes I get sick and stay in bed all day. Sometimes my lower back goes out, my muscles ache and my stomach is sour. I am not alone in this malaise, everyone feels it. Every refugee in a every tent city feels the same at times, but, they also have to deal with being a refugee in a tent city. They have to deal with every aspect of being human and deal with it hungry.

Seeing the images of the Haitian people wandering through their city of rubble is hard to watch. Understanding that one may have just ruptured an ovarian cyst, or is dealing with fibromyalgia, or the child on screen may be asthmatic is a whole other level of reality, a reality that the images on TV, or the words on a page don't convey. To gain perspective for a life that has been turned upside down by war or natural disaster is to first remember how hard it is at times for you to get through your day, even after a good night's sleep, breakfast, a shower, coffee, etc. and then imagine your day without those amenities and having to deal with the trauma of war or the aftermath of disaster.

I write about this because, quite frankly, it's hard to hear some people bitch. Not that everyone's hardships need to be relative to another's, but it is good to keep perceptive on how good most of us have it and how much worse it could get.

Muddy's Cafe on 22nd and California. Summer of '92

Awash in self-doubt, I was not unlike many twenty-year-olds: misanthropic, disheartened and sardonic, perhaps I was just slightly better read. I was post-Kerouac's Dharma Bums but pre-Bukowski's Ham on Rye when I ambled into Muddy'slooking for work. With desired results I filled out the application in what I thought divinely inspired spontaneous prose.

On my first shift the cook who was scheduled to train me had been arrested for breaking into a warehouse and throwing what was one of the first raves in Denver. I ran the kitchen solo on my first night. I was assured by waitstaff I could handle it, the menu was not too complicated, and being a Tuesday night, it was notoriously slow. Once a prediction of a slow night is issued aloud in a restaurant, the curse is already at play to pack the place in the most unsynchronistic way. When the show let out from the Mercury Cafe at 2 a.m., I got my ass handed to me.

Somehow I managed to get the food out faster and with less mistakes than previous cooks, so I was welcomed into the underbelly of the Muddy's staff in the summer of 1992. Little did I know that summer I would find my calling, see my future wife and have quantum physics explained by a vampire.

Downtown Denver was being revamped by short-sighted development and uncreative entrepreneurship, leaving Muddy's as a true bastion for the malcontent, the nocturnal, the macabre princesses, the role-playing-game occultist, the opportunistic drug dealers and others who sought refuge from the sporty new look of downtown. Muddy's was the Moulin Rouge of the Queen City. Tables filled with subjective tarot-card readers, maudlin writers and young theater enthusiasts all mixing under a cloud of clove smoke bopping to the sound of live improv jazz. Being far too pragmatic to purely "hang out" at Muddy's, I enjoyed the utilitarian purpose of my participation in this underworld, feeding people. So fulfilling did I find this that I continue doing it today as the owner of WaterCourse Foods, City, O’ City, WaterCourse Bakery and Osa Mariposa.

Denver remained somewhat pure back then. The coastal influences were diluted by distance and open to manipulation by Midwestern boredom. Country music had never sounded more gothic, punk rock never played so loud. Early-evening thunderstorms washed the grime from the day down the drains, leaving a cool, fresh start for the evening.

One such summer evening the Rok Tots, an ungodly loud band played the Lion's Lair, a spontaneous and unrefined hero for the local music scene. Unbeknownst to me, the bartender was the lovely Michelle McManus, whom I would marry six years later. Muddy's, the Mercury Cafe, the Lion's Lair and Calvin's made up an incongruous setting for the comings and goings of a small underground scene.

Like mourning a cup of coffee that has been consumed, I would be a fool to lament the good old days of Denver. Denver's heyday was many, many years ago, when the grand valley flooded every century and the occupants traveled through in moccasins. By the 1990s we were well on our way to compromising our independent integrity to be a second-rate "real" city. Muddy's was a last bastion of the independent semi-urban west.

I read the man who put in a discotheque where Muddy's once stood decided to leave up a few walls for artistic or sentimental value. Bullshit. I am sure there are zoning and permit benefits to leaving them up. The building, as Tim Fink put it, was a piece of shit. That building is just a sarcophagus that entombed a memory of a time in Denver's history when reading, music, poetry and strong-ass coffee were important to our culture. The building is not worth eulogizing, the culture is.
Rest in peace.

The business of pre business

There is the idea of something and then there is the reality.
There is the idea of opening your own business and then there is the reality.

WaterCourse Foods, and City, O' City were at one point ideas that swam in my head like colorful fish. I would pay attention to them as they floated by, think about how fantastic it would be to own my own restaurant or open a great bar. I would manipulate the concepts (my first concept for WaterCourse was to serve veggie comfort food in bowls), and then change them. As ideas these changes were easy and cheap to make. This gestation period for the businesses was vital to their future success.

In 1996, as I sat on a train leaving Denver for NYC taking me to the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in Mid-town, I jotted down the name WaterCourse Foods in a notebook. The name was influenced by reading the Tao de Ching while I hiked the Colorado Trail. I was 24 at the time and searching for a some sort of guide. I recognized the Tao as a useful text immediately. The Tao is like water...

In 1994 I took trains through Europe for 4 months, sleeping in parks and trying to live on less than $10 per day. I ended up seeing most of the big cities in France, Italy, Czech Republic, etc. Like all extended travel it was at times depressing and others exhilarating. I spent most of my time nursing beers in bars reading anything and everything I could find from used bookstores or the book exchange shelf at the random youth hostel. There was James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Nabokov, Dostoevsky, D.H. Lawerence, Frank Herbert. It was in these bistros, bars, pubs, and cafes that I conceptualized City, O' City, an ode or a lament to the city, it was to be a comfortable joint for people to gather that tries it's best not to insult the intelligence of the customer.

Hiking for hundreds of miles along trails in Colorado and walking the cobblestone steets of old cities in Europe provided unique inspiration for my restaurants. The important thing, and the reason I think these places have become successful, is they are inspired.

The business of pre business is to find inspiration where ever it may be. This may take getting lost, or sleeping in parks but find it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Prison Industrial Complex

I am concerned about men and women who spend years behind bars. To me the idea of being imprisoned is tantamount to being buried alive (if,god forbid, given a choice between the two, I would choose imprisonment... enthusiastically).

Things we can all agree upon:

A multi-year sentence in prison is life changing, for the better or the worse is up to the statistics you site.

Long periods of incarceration is a severe punishment and should be doled out with the utmost jurisprudence.

The goal for such sentences of incarceration should be to deter the original act of the crime, the duration of the sentence should reflect the severity of the crime, and the outcome should be to reintroduce the incarcerated as a person who operates within the accepted social norms of society.

The system which deliberates upon the process of the crime/punishment equation should treat all sects of society with the same objectivity and have no financial interest in the outcome.


The big problem is our present economy depends on people breaking the law. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people employed to investigate, arrest, prosecute, try, transport, process, incarcerate, feed, clean up after, people who break laws in this country.

Prisons are for profit
Empty beds = books in the red
Keep 'em comin' back
Keep the books in the black

Prison Industrial Complex

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Invincible (the modern traveler)

fearlessly pass by the last gas station

without looking at the gauge.

you have a cell phone and a credit card,

you are invincible.

even the cautious left caution at the turn of the century.

drink with abandon in a strange city
drunk with confidence stride down the sidewalk
preach love to the homeless
break out a beatbox with the homies on the corner
they'll love you because you're cute

but eat street tacos
from a cart that no one else does
and you'll shit yourself for sure.

soul compost

I think I found the lime wedge
in the compost I was turning
from the gin and tonic I was drinking
on the night I really fucked up

I am what I buy

I am what I buy
I am identified by what I identify with
This is power of the brand
So choose who and what you associate with wisely.

When people ask "how does it feel to own some of the most successful restaurants in Denver?"
I have a pat answer.
"In this day and age I am just glad to be a part of something that doesn't suck."