Coffee and Brussels Sprout

It was only 8 in the morning but outside, garbage trucks were making a tremendous commotion. On top of that, Gary was snoring next to her, almost as loudly, a half grizzly growl/half wheezing sigh. Sleep wasn’t an option despite how tired and fatigued Annabel was. She felt achy but got out of bed anyway and glided like a ghost into the jagged morning.

‘Better make the most of it now, I guess,’ she told herself.

She went to the kitchen, planning on brewing a pot of coffee, but they were all out. Annabel looked through her cabinets for a possible spare bag of coffee that she knew wasn’t going to appear, and after a minute gave up, slumping into a chair. Her grey hair fell in front of her eyes and she left it there, blinding her. It had been a few months since she last went to the beauty shop.

After a minute of quiet despair, she looked up at the calendar with tomorrow’s date circled and decided not to spend today sitting around the kitchen, watching the clock spin around in circles.  She got up and left a note for Gary that she was going out, even though she doubted he would be awake by the time she was back.

It had been a few months since she opened the garage. When she did, something scurried into the pitch black corner, causing her to almost drop the door on her foot. “Goddamn,” she cursed. “Gary, come out here!” Annabel waited for a minute, debating whether to go and get him or let him sleep, then felt foolish for being afraid of a mouse right now and a stern courage overtook her.

‘Screw it,’ she said aloud and plowed in. There were some boxes blocking her way. When she moved them and squeezed over to her bike, Annabel discovered both tires were low on air. Just another disappointment in a string of them… ‘Screw it,’ she said, acknowledging this was quickly becoming her mantra, and emboldened by this newly found motivation to carry on in spite of it all, she grabbed the handlebars and dragged the bike into the street.

It was difficult pedaling, but she kept on riding on those two flat tires, doggedly; because if you don’t stay on top of it, a bike is just another useless thing you have to push — like a husband without a job.

We either age gracefully or we rage against every grey hair and discolored pore in a desperate attempt for love, relevancy, and covetous currency. Annabel saw nothing wrong with that. She had used an arsenal of creams and dyed her hair when she could to keep up a more youthful appearance. When she was younger, she was a beach beauty back and aspiring actress when L.A. still had orange groves.  ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’ is not a comforting axiom for Annabel. It’s also the last day you’ll ever be that young again — that’s how she looks at that.

It took five times as long to get there, but Annabel finally pulled her useless bike up to Trader Joe’s and locked it to a phone booth — another useless thing in this useless world today, she glumly noted  — and took her basket off the handlebars and entered. The store was busy and brightly illuminated. She winced under the harsh, unflattering light and sighed loudly enough for people nearby to turn their heads.

If only Gary didn’t love the bottle more than her, more than paying the car bill and mortgage. If only she didn’t settle for him when she turned 30 and thought it was now or never. Oh well. She tried to change her thoughts. The past is just a book we’ve already read, no use flipping through its dog-eared pages over and over, she told herself.

She steeled herself, repeated again, ‘screw it,’ and plunged into her shopping. First she grabbed a bottle of Charles Shaw wine, a perfectly suitable wine, especially given its price, she’d argue, if anybody was around to argue about it, but then, realizing that today was different, put it back in exchange for something ten times its price; then she made a beeline for the frozen food aisle and found her favorite meal, the Trader Joe’s frozen Cioppino soup, delicious and so simple to heat up. Eggs, coffee and milk were next. When she reached the coffee, she put two bags into her basket guaranteeing she’d not run out for some time.

With her shopping basket filling up, she, too, felt filled up. Her body hadn’t felt this strong in months, reinvigorated and excited. In fact, she had forgotten all about the flat tires and her doctor’s appointment tomorrow and Gary’s recent violent turns.

Doing this, Annabel felt… alive… what a concept! What irony!

All the other swirling dust molecules in her shuttered brain were settling into a fine layer of sand that she now made footprints through. This must be what it feels like when you hit rock bottom, but come out the other side on top of a mountain top… seeing everything so clearly you feel like a fool for ever wasting your time in the valleys. Up is down. Down is up. Death is life. A dishonest dollar is still worth one hundred cents.

There were samples of smoked salmon and crackers at the display in the back — not an item Annabel would normally enjoy, but these days why turn down something for free? She stopped for a taste and even had a pleasant chat with the young girl with a lip ring behind the sneeze-proof glass.

Annabel was feeling a sudden desire to not go through with it tomorrow. Maybe just let things take their course?

The only thing left on her list were brussels sprout. She went to the fresh vegetable section where they normally were, but instead of finding them, there was an empty hole on the shelf. Annabel scoured the section but there was no sign of any brussels sprout. She stood there for a full minute, convincing herself of bruising righteousness.

Annabel marched up to the manager stand where a friendly Hispanic man with a dark goatee and thin glasses greeted her. He asked her what he could help her with today, bored yet focused.

Annabel reached inside her and found the dark inspiration for this mid-afternoon theater. “First, you could operate a store fully stocked with common household staples!” She lectured in a rising, admonishing tone.

The manager was taken aback, quickly responded, “I’m sorry, ma’am. We don’t carry staples or stationary, or anything like that. There is an Office Depot down the block on Wilshire. They’ll have staples.”

At this she made her blood not only boil, but turn to lava. Her motivation was anger and she dove down deep for it, pulling every slight and failure out of her, unfurling them like a long rope to lay on his desk. “Not staples like that! Not…” She made a violent, stapling motion with her hand. “Staples means essentials like vegetables and meat and bread and you very well should know this as manager of a grocery store! Is there nothing you can count on anymore?!”

The manager looked around nervously. The other customers were all distracted by the racket Annabel was making. “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, ma’am,” he told her. “What is it that we are out of you were looking for? You know we carry only the freshest and most affordable products so from time to time…”

“Oh, I know all that malarkey,” she interrupted. “But Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on in the world when you don’t have any brussels sprout?”

“Oh, so that’s it? That’s what you’re looking for?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m looking for. It should be there on that shelf over there,” She pointed. “Next to the asparagus and zucchini.”

“My apologies. I assure you if you come back in the morning our trucks will have come in and we’ll have plenty of Brussel sprouts for you.”

Annabel’s jaw dropped in shock. She was now reaching the crescendo of her performance and was feeling electrified. “Brussel Sprouts? Brussel SPROUTS?!” She screamed so that even the nice girl with the lip piercing in the back stopped plying crackers with smoked salmon and listened. “It’s brussels sprout. Brussels!” She hollered. “Sprout. Brussels. Sprout.”

The assistant manager’s face reddened. From the corner of his eyes he spotted his manager approaching. “I’m sorry. I was not aware…”

“Of course, you weren’t! Nobody is! Why should you?! Nobody cares about anything anymore! Just because I’m an old lady doesn’t mean I should be treated like this!”

Just then the head manager reached them and asked how he could help.

Annabel pivoted on her heels and screamed in his face, “Fuck off as well,” she told him.

She then snatched her basket and stormed out of the Trader Joe’s without stopping at the checkout to pay while dozens of people stood speechlessly and watched. She was a wild storm nobody wanted to confront. The managers just let her leave.

Nobody could have guess that this was a woman whose t-cells were in rapid decline.

She attached her basket of groceries to her bike and pedaled quickly through the parking lot, through the swarm of cars circling for a spot. Once she was safely down the block she laughed and released an ear-to-ear, face-splitting smile, enjoying the thrill of what she just pulled off.

Their social security checks will come in next week and maybe she’ll go back to pay, but for now, if Annabel was going to endure Chemo, she damn well wasn’t going to do it without a decent cup of coffee.


Fried Pickle Lemonade

I’m lost so I burn down the barn. I’m hungry so I find an apocalypse.
I can’t sleep so I write poetry. I’m tired so I plant 13 roses.
I stumble on my words so I hide them in a bottom drawer.
I’m nostalgic for wayward days so I put this message in a bottle.
I’m bored so I get a new tattoo. I’m lonely so I get a new lover.
I fumble my clumsy heart so I cover it up in bubble wrap.
I can’t sing so I rap. I can’t dance so I dress well.
I lasso the moon only to find the cheese rotten.
I’m starstruck by meandering Mercury.
I’m a mouse with a bad tooth.

If you walked into my world with a bottle of wine, I’d pull a glass out of the cupboard and we’d sit in the living room and talk about how the world is made of lace and finer things, and when all the wine was drunk I’d head to the kitchen for another bottle and then we’d adjourn outside when it was cooler and light a bonfire so the stars had company and continue to talk and laugh too loudly till  the neighbors peer over the wall and ask us to call it a night; then we’d return inside and play the record player softly as we drink the third bottle and talk about how when we were young we’d make mix tapes using double cassette boom boxes, developing the timing to press Record and Play simultaneously, and then with sandalwood candles burning on the mantle we’d  stare into each other eyes, trying to get that symmetry back.

The moon sets behind a hollow mountain. There are cacti reaching for the celestial unknown. I’m over here in my boxers, drinking fried pickle lemonade.

I’m a lost letter in the wrong mailbox.

Instagram Love and Fathers (Kidding Not Kidding)

I am not a father. I don’t want a kid, necessarily, but I want a son or daughter. I am not jealous of screaming babies, or crayon markings on walls, or changing diapers, but I want a child falling to sleep on my chest, maturing under my loving care. I want to feel saline streams, gushing torrents of joy, in a delivery room. I want take him or her to the zoo and when they point at an ibex and asked what is that, I want to give them an answer — even if I have to read it off the goddamn wall. I don’t want a human accessory, I want that piece of me that is unabashed, unlimited love to take form, and yeah, maybe also dress him or her up in adorable threads.

I want a partner in this endeavor, too. Somebody so grounded and so in love with me that we understand and tolerate and exalt and enhance each other, and our love makes life better like a permanent Instagram filter is placed over our eyes. Cry together. Laugh together. Put our heads together to figure out just what to do when Lilly Em cries because she doesn’t think anybody else in school likes her; or Diego starts smoking pot behind our backs — like we don’t know what that smell is or why sometimes he comes home and his eyes are squinting like little demon holes.

There’s a primal, sacred place in my soul that is waiting to be filled with the hardest work I’ll ever know.

Without my dad and his guidance and patience I would be lost, not that I’m found necessarily, but at least I have a pretty dependable compass for the wandering. He raised me when he didn’t have to. I was a sneaky sperm that snuck past a diaphragm and there were long discussions about what to do with me. He didn’t take an easy out. This was the 70’s and they had three kids already, they missed out on many a swinger party and cocaine binge I’m sure. They could have made an appointment to the doctor to vacuum me out and save themselves a ton of headaches over the years… and $$$! (One thing I have a natural talent for is causing headaches and wasting money.) But they didn’t, and here I am, your faithful poet-philosopher, wanderluster. And for that, I’m eternally indebted. It’s our species’s duty to pay this one forward.

Make no mistake, Father’s Day is bullshit, just like Valentine’s Day and Easter it’s just another made up instrument of the Institution… still, unlike the Easter Bunny and romantic love, father’s ARE real (just kidding).  Kidding not kidding. Still, fathers deserve to be appreciated and celebrated. They deserve respect and love every single day, and if it takes a Hallmark holiday to remind some of us to do it, then that’s okay. And if you have to clog Instagram with vintage photos of your dad or your husbands with your adorable children then that’s okay today.

One day, I’ll annoy you too. :)

Peace and Philippe Pateks, my proud papas.


I should buy a new outfit.
I shouldn’t wear socks with sandals.
I should tell her how I really feel.
I shouldn’t tell everybody lies.
I should light a candle.
I shouldn’t burn it all down.
I should go to the gym.
I shouldn’t obsess over my abs.
I should call my dad.
I shouldn’t hold the past against everybody.
I should read more.
I shouldn’t read those Men’s magazines though.
I should be happy for other people’s happiness.
I shouldn’t be so critical of myself.
I should write more poetry.
I shouldn’t write so much poetry.
I should take my clothes to the dry cleaners.
I shouldn’t spill so much wine on my blazers
I should burn my fingerprints.
I shouldn’t use a magnifying glass.
I should embrace the fluid river of meandering time.
I shouldn’t be so horrified by change.
I should love myself more.
I shouldn’t take her for granted.
I should learn to ride a horse or something.
I shouldn’t pound my head on the wall.
I should eat Kale.
I shouldn’t sit and stew.
I should put on some good music.
I shouldn’t distract myself.
I should take a walk.
I shouldn’t listen to my headphones too loudly.
I should get it together.
I shouldn’t take myself so seriously.
I should buy a calculator.
I shouldn’t abide by fairy tales.
I should pay more for quality.
I shouldn’t spend $500 on boots.
I should control my thoughts.
I shouldn’t censor my thoughts.
I should harness my thoughts.
I shouldn’t corral my thoughts.
I should just reach out and tell her what I think, goddamn it.
I shouldn’t call her when I’m drunk, goddamn it.
I shouldn’t get so drunk all the time, goddamn it.
I should write all this down.

Grocery Lists

Why do I tear up my grocery lists like they’re bank receipts?
Why have I never had a relationship last longer than a jar of capers?
Why does a slice of pale moon make me disappointed, like the world
is a fortune cookie with a blank slip of paper inside? Dipped in eel sauce?
And with a perforated edge that sliced my finger open?

If life were one of those photographs where half the image is underwater
and the other half is above, I’d be in the corner with a scuba mask
and dress shoes, waiting to jump in… sharks with party hats
and cigars circling underneath…

It’s raining outside. The summer rain creates a humid smell that is like sweat socks and cut grass. I sit out on the balcony, drinking by myself, and watch the cars and the people and the trash blow across a city pulsing with hunger and ache and silent alarm. Tongue out, catching the rain — I’m a human birdbath, meaningless words spilling out — waiting for my mouth to fill up, waiting for the worm to crawl out of my Tequila bottle.

I’m so bored today I’d be fine with an Earthquake destroying my building just for an excuse to go outside. I close my eyes and Godzilla is crushing the Hollywood sign with his foot. I open them and there’s a white spider descending
from silk onto my window sill… and I’m still here.

Friends come and go, teapots whistle, pineapples fall on heads… planes take off, lovers kiss, rabbits get their feet cut off.

And I’m still here.

Do you ever walk into a room and people you don’t know stop talking and, however impossible, you feel like they were talking about you? Like everybody out there knows your secrets? Like all the people you’ve never met were waiting
with anticipation to hate you?

Yeah, me neither…


Oyster Ice Cream Horror Parade

Eating ice cream with crystals…
floating in a river of thistle,
we shatter and break
and kiss under the missiles
as World War 3 seeps into the room,
you flip the pillow, go back to sleep
and let your dreams fizzle.

Wear a necklace of frazzled days like leis in Hawaii.
As we walk tip-toe across the Minnesota skyway
the stars pinball, I’m on the corner making a call,
gum stuck on the pay phone… it’s ringing…
nobody’s home.

I’m a lemon wedge in a pregnant lady’s water glass…
I’m a snicker from a child who’s allergic to tickles…
I’m a lost glove riding the subway all night…

A dozen oysters and she’s still grousing about her ex.
The grand marshal of this horror parade is buried under confetti.
There’s a black fly playing possum — without the ‘O’ in front.

I’m a man in a yellow jacket giving the thumbs-up…

The planet’s wobble
water in my shoe…
talk to me like we’re friends
leave me like a lover.

Put a rose in my mouth
then brush my thorny teeth.
A man is only a man
as long as he has something
to read. I’m a bottlecap rapper
just trying to find a beat.

The hourglass sand dune dooms us all.

I’m a vagabond voyager
lost on easy street.


Ocean Blue

There it was. Just sitting there. Vast. Immeasurable. And impossibly blue. The Pacific Ocean, so inevitable that it took me 12 years to get here. But inevitability isn’t about immediacy. It’s just that unshakable destiny you destroy yourself to avoid but it’s still hanging on, like an extra limb you can’t sever know matter how many times you take the proverbial knife to it.

I always knew something bad was bound to happen — I never even considered the possibility of happiness. Now that I’m here, finally, staring out into the watery void… I wonder if I ever knew anything about anything.

It’s amazing, amusing even, how something so large — placed at the end of the continent so that all you have to do is follow the setting sun to find — can be so hard to find.

But, alas, here I am, standing on the cliffs of what used to be Santa Monica. A  pier slowly crumbles to time before me, below me the beach where a massive city rubbed against the shore like a lech at a bus stop. And this is my final destination. I have no way, nor desire, to keep going.

After 12 years of shaping reality for people around me — everybody, eventually — I had no more lines… no more descriptions. You can’t pay to tell you what I see. My eyes are for me only, now.

The ocean is crashing and frothing like a turbulent stew and dotted with whitecaps; and sailboats that crashed against the pillars of a dilapidated pier create a little island of trash and wreckage. A broken down roller coaster looks like an emaciated metal dragon and I had nobody to tell this to, nobody paying me for this knowledge, the image only my pupils could see… and this made me tingle like a cold breeze covered my body, like a conman telling the truth, like somebody just gave me a mirror and the person I saw… was somebody new, better, happy.

This is what it means, finally, I suppose, to really, really see.