30 Seconds

Not often do you come across a story about a stick that is worth transmitting to written word, but I believe I possess such a story.

Five years ago my best friend, Rob, was in a horrific house fire. I got the word that he was scorched on 70% of his body and clinging tenuously to life in a San Francisco Burn Ward.

The man, my friend I knew since 16 and considered a brother, in one form, or all forms, was gone. That’s all I understood.

I told everybody I knew about it. I told them how sad it made me. I was mad that my girlfriend at the time wasn’t sad enough. I went out that night with friends and we got shit-drunk. We shared stories and wept and talked about him in the past tense in a Fairfax bar, warm and untouched by fire, always catching ourselves awkwardly. Then my friends and I went on a walk through the sleeping neighborhood and were comforted a little by pin-dropped stars in a vast and mysterious sky.

I was wearing the robes of despair when I came across a stick, a plain old branch from a rather unremarkable tree, and instinctively picked it up and carried it with me. It wasn’t bigger than two feet. There was nothing unusual about this stick except that when I held it in my hand I felt within it a special power. I got the feeling that as long as I held onto this stick, and protected it, and as long as the stick was intact, Rob would be okay.

I came home and placed it on my mantle. It didn’t look strange or anything. I had a gold-painted rock and a stuffed tiger with gold chains in my living room already. The stick was right at home.

The stick gave me hope, even though I knew it was just an ordinary stick.

The stick stayed on my mantle for many years, and when it left the mantle it moved to a spot in the corner. Rob not only survived the fire, he recovered spectacularly. Last December we went on a ten-day trip to Europe and had the time of our lives. I was wrong that night when I thought in one way or another, Rob was gone, he is very much the same man on the inside I knew from before the fire, just with some scars on the outside.

I know the miracle belongs more to the fine doctors at the hospital than to my “magic” stick, but even Rob would agree that the stick at least factored in somewhere.

Before I get to, I hope, the interesting part, let’s recap…

In a time of emotional need I selected a stick and bestowed upon it a higher meaning. I knowingly manufactured a myth around the stick that gave me hope. Something to believe in. This on-the-spot spiritual story gave me succor when I was suffering and that’s probably why I held on to it for so long after the danger had passed. At this point it WAS a magic stick, because I had declared it thus, so I needed to make sure that stick was safe, even though I knew it was silly, that Rob’s life wasn’t somehow protected by this dead piece of a tree leaning against my wall, that it was just some thing I had drunkenly conjured up.

So this takes us to today; wherein our story takes a tragic turn.

While moving furniture around I placed an old window frame on the ground and heard a loud crack. If you’ve ever collected firewood you know the sound. It was a sharp severing that reverberated off the wall. It slapped my ears with an unmistakable, cold finality.

I stopped. I didn’t look down. For a brief moment I was terrified at what I carelessly done.

An episode of 1ooo Ways to Die flashed through my brain and they all starred my friend.

Right that instant, in my head, I saw Rob slip on a banana peel, choke on a milkshake straw, and break his back doing a mean windmill on the dance floor. All because I didn’t look where I set that damn window down!

When I opened my eyes I saw about a third of the stick had broken off. I also noticed how the leaves on the potted plant next to the now-broken stick was drooping. I had to make this right but I couldn’t put the stick back together again.  Inspiration struck. I picked up the larger piece of the stick and dug it into the dirt to use to prop up the drooping branches. Rob is now healthy, happy, a great friend and supporter to all, it only makes sense that the stick is now being used to support the tree.

It was the stick’s destiny to break and now be used in this fashion. Breaking the stick was what was meant to happen all along.

That’s what I was now going with.

For five years I held a sacred belief that the stick held one meaning, that it protected Rob’s life like a magical amulet or talisman or what have you, and within 30 seconds of that belief being tested I made the switch to believing it now represented Rob’s personal growth and supportive nature…

Rather than face the negative conclusion of my beliefs, I revised and altered the story so that both Rob and the myth could live. It now holds another form of symbolism, one that doesn’t result in the spontaneous and/or bizarre death of Rob.

I mean, spelling it out sorta confuses it, but it’s akin to immediately going from the bible being literal to allegorical. In 30 seconds.

I’ll let you decide whether this story about a stick is fascinating or not. I guess I’m being clever because it’s obviously really not about the damn stick, but the stick being a representation of something else (much like these words are just a crude representation of what it felt like to hear that stick snap and have to come to terms with five years of myth-building being tested; a stick figure drawing in a cave, if you will).

It’s strange that I was very aware of this primitive, almost pagan-like event as it happened, but was still powerless to prevent it.  It’s a rather strange reminder that as far as we’ve come, we’re still very much like our ancient ancestors, constructing Gods from elements and royalty from bloodlines.

We live in a stranger and dangerous moment of human evolution where we’re capable of capturing killer whales and teaching them to do tricks in a giant bathtub but still primitive and dumb enough to believe this was a cool thing to do. We built rocket ships that can carry us to the moon, but only because the two strongest countries were in a pissing match with each other and were seeking a strategic perch with which to obliterate each other.

We’re living in a time where we’re too advanced for our own good.

We’re monkeys holding loaded guns. Just because we have thumbs doesn’t mean we know the best things to do with them. And though I comment with a better-than-thou snark, I know I’m very much half man/half caveman too.

 

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Ferocious Still Life

Amid all the noise, in the middle of all that crowd, with a vast sky above and an Earth filled with bones below, somehow we keep dancing like the only two people in the world. In that little space we find ourselves still. Atoms no longer oscillating individually.

I never thought I’d crave still life so ferociously.

Locked by a stare that contains novels, masterpieces wrapped in lips. If I could capture a tenth of the feeling your hand woven through mine produces in words this poem would embarrass Neruda, Keats would tip his hat. There would be seminars based on what I meant when I wrote: the quenching of Latrice brought phantasmagoric delight to every corner of the hobbit house.

It’s the way you dance that makes everything alright. Like there was no yesterday and no tomorrow and all that matters is the next chorus. Your eyes find mine like the butterflies find Mexico.

I think it’s your laughter that makes California poppies super bloom.

When I hear your voice, inside my heart a bird nest takes shape. And I crave to hold something so delicate that it makes my entire body shake ever so gently.

Mink Trader

The wagon wheel dumps water and covers tracks and makes a jarring sound
carrying its cart, its cargo dripping and spilling on the street, nails and bullets
and razor blades; and I’m riding shotgun with a shotgun looking for victims,
but my shotgun’s full of puns and dumb jokes, so all I do is kill you with apathy.

Steaks were sizzling, the moon was dancing; I was high, celebrating Canada Day
in Canada. There were elk and moose burgers too. I was so peaceful I fell out of a tree and into your lap. But still you looked at me like I was a strange thing. And that’s why I looked strangely back.

These are just words. The sun is blazing. Time is crisp like a suntan. I have a watch collection bigger than my wrists. This song plays on repeat, I turn it off when my ears dissolve. You know it’s not easy being a poet in 2017 when the Internet can do it for you, but I do it for me, each and every little fade away jump shot brick off the rim. Film at eleven. In your arms in heaven; in my head a mess.

I took a photograph bath, woke up inside out. I drank my wine and made my joke, and got my laugh… then slid to the left. I would say I’m a slider, but I wouldn’t be the first one. I would say I don’t feel bad, but I’m not that good at lying.

In science books, in pictures of the Earth, in all the colors, I fade into a blur.

I tightrope walk over coals. I do a swan kick on broken ice. In summer I jump into the pond. But in winter I do too. And that may be my Revenant. My sacrificial bear. The nails in my hand, my handiwork a coffin, choked on
too much talking.

Walking into a bear den with a coat of meat.

I wore a coat of cheese and got eaten by mice. You smile in my face because my teeth are white. I’d be lying to say it doesn’t feel good captured in the disco light. Trapped by the shimmering sheep dreaming of me, jumping through quivering skeletal bones, they make a macarena sound. We all dance alone.

Although the dance floor’s crowded and there’s always somebody tapping your shoulder… I can’t just stand on the wall. My fire rages harder when the weather gets colder. I’m a simple soulful Norseman with itchy fingers. Train whistles enchant, but a city boy with pleats in his pants don’t know how to do the hobo dance.

It goes one leg, two leg — soon got no legs.

Privileged and pouty, I’m a mound of tacky. Trail packs of snacks tackling Mount Whitney… Mount Whitney? But I never even knew her. Hahaha. Watch out for the cougars. In a lean-to tent the walls caved in in a swirl of color and falling apart pixels. I took a picture of my grin because it was as wide as the room it was taken in. I was taken. Just 14 and stupid as heck. The baby was mine, but grew up somebody else’s daughter…

There’s a type of orange that isn’t a color or a fruit, but a little other thing, a mood, a small stain on the fridge when you cleaned all day. A sunset obscured by a fog.  It’s the specks of dandelion that never gets blown. The ice cream cone on the sidewalk and the crying baby next to it.

Won’t this train whistle ever stop? It’s like a non-stop Billy Jean Nintendo game shooting clay pigeons out of a sinking ship. I was one loaded quip from spilling my drink. People curse false Gods, I flick off the real one, that jeweled smile parting clouds like a hockey referee.

It was the case of the disappearing coffee table. My first mystery. My first romance. But it was just college and too much to drink so she thought she’d take it out by writing ‘you’re an ass’ in the wood but she spelled it with Z’s because that’s the lasting impression she liked to leave. I see her from time to time but I’d rather not say because her name is in the papers…

How could I be made of such sail but so tired from rowing?

My state is made of so many letters it leaves me scrambled. California. It begins with a coastline and drifts with poppies and sunshine. Her myth is mighty but I know her intimate secrets. To others it’s an angry epithet, but she’s always Cali to me.

I dream lavishly of leaving one languid lyric that repeats in an eternal echo that reaches some shared secret space to melt my membrane maybe. But, baby, if I make you cry along the way it’s because you can feel, it’s real, and in this world of detached stimuli its realness is the only thing you still want, and crave. And when the walls Nick Cave in you can still look for The Cure for different Strokes. But it’s not behind The Doors or The Wallfowers. (Oh, goddamn, I get so close to Bjorg-ing myself sometimes…)

My mama said I’m a ray of sunshine — I’m a death ray of moonshine. But I loved her nevertheless. I love the orange glow. Afternoons with nowhere to go. Drenched in a liquid state, stuck in a bliss unconcerned with the algorithm. I remember hopping back fences now I’m parking valet. I still skip down the hall.

The world is young. And the young are strong. And the old say it’s foolish to believe in such things, but I believe in such things. The ephemeral blessing of not giving a fuck.

Just because you can’t catch it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

There is a saying somebody says, but I don’t remember and I don’t care. In the dark I’m typing blind. And the pins are already in the doll. So let’s all cough down on sleeves. Oh right. That might have been it.

In the absence of any real recording, please tickle the tip of your finger for me. Tell me a thing you need to whisper. Lick my third eye like a lizard… Another mountain is eaten by humans. Let me ski on the slope of this crumbling civilization >> snapping filtered-fine Chablis decanted symphonic Instagram wine.

I want to do graffiti on my shower curtain.

I want to be the ringleader of my own circus show.

I want to not do I.

A Perfect Lover

There are names scratched in sidewalks I never noticed. Children’s chalk drawings that I stepped on. Flowers that smell like bottled-up tropical islands. The clouds, right before dusk, even take on a melon hue. There all these things I never knew existed until I saw you. The world changed for me that night. That night, through your slightly veiled windows, you on your couch with your laptop in your lap. Your bangs draped across your forehead. I’m in love with your forehead.

I can’t believe I’ve never seen you before.

And now I see you every night, though you never see me. And in this way, we have a kind of unique relationship. I look over you but don’t expect a thing. Isn’t that pretty romantic?

Most men want something.

Even though I can see that you’re alone, and that no man comes to visit, I’ve never once approached you. Even when you’re on your weekly Sunday afternoon supermarket run, I keep my distance. I respect your space.

Sometimes when I don’t see the light come on I wonder where you are, but then I’m reminded that mystery is the spice that keeps every relationship full of flavor. I can only imagine the mystery you’re not even aware of feeling not knowing I’m here.

If that makes sense? Because I’m sure you feel something. Even though you don’t see me, you must sense my loving presence.

You see, that first day I saw you on your couch, with your laptop in your lap, you were crying. I couldn’t tell what you were looking at, but I could see such longing and hurt in your swollen eyes that I fell in love a little with your misery.

You looked hurt and it was beautiful, in a way, not that you were hurt, but the feelings that arose in me. Total devotion. I felt a grace fill me up and it was like a balloon; and I knew that I was supposed to tie that grace balloon to you and keep you lifted off of this dirt. And that’s why I’m here watching over you.

Does that make sense?  Like, I loved all of you from the start, even the dark and damp and uncomfortable pieces. I wouldn’t say I wanted to wash your feet, because that is a little gross to be honest — but a little like Jesus, I wanted to adore you. That kind of thing.

And whatever little misery, or misery-maker, in your life, I wanted to conquer. I hated it. I wanted you strong again. Not teary-eyed and thinking of things that bring gloom to your angelic visage. I am not a violent man, but now that I had somebody to protect I felt a little like a warrior. It’s important to note I am a peaceful man.

But I’d rather tear out all the rose bushes than risk you being pricked by a thorn.

What would you do without me?

I love the way you read in your bed before going to sleep. All these books I’d never heard of before. The first time I touched your apartment was when I came by in the day, considerate of you being at work and not wanting to intrude while you were there, (always thinking of you), and I head to lift myself up on your windowsill to get a closer look at the titles…

The Alchemist…
The Writings of the Buddha…
She’s Come Undone…

You seemed like a woman who needs consistency in her life.

That’s why I’m here every night.

But tonight something different happened.

It was still early, maybe a little before midnight, when a car drove up and parked outside. I waited in my hiding place for whomever it was to scurry off but this person sat in their car for almost ten minutes.

I’m as patient as they come, obviously, but it was starting to bother me. What were they waiting for? The driver of the car could be seen, thanks to a streetlight that captured his pointy features with a sharp honesty. A nose that seemed to eject from his face. Lips that curled in a damaged way. His hair was crumpled and spiked with some kind of modern substance. I could tell the guy was nervous and that he kept looking at her apartment. I knew from taking the back route through the alley that she was in the shower.

What if this person was out to harm my angel?

Eventually the guy got out of his car and rang her doorbell. His jeans were dark and slim and his button down shirt was the type guys with desk jobs wear for interviews. He reached in his pocket and leaned his body at a curve in order to wiggle out the object he was struggling with. I tried to figure out what he had in there. I normally wouldn’t be so brazen but I stood up out of the bush to get a better look, just in case I would have to apprehend the guy single-handily (wouldn’t that be something!) or somebody would need to testify (me), that they saw this suspicious guy ringing her bell and spotted diligently whatever weapon was in his pocket.

He finally freed the thing was stuck in his tight jeans. It was a little box. He stared at it like he didn’t know what it was for a brief moment before the door opened. The remarkable thing is, when she opened the door, she turned and looked right at me. I was certain I had blown my cover, but she didn’t see me at all. Her face had gone flush with recognition and emotion and surprise, but it was for the man standing there with the box. Not me. She looked stunned, and so did he. I was stunned too, holding my breath, standing in the bushes.

Everybody waiting for something to happen…

They then disappeared inside. From where I was stationed I couldn’t see the living room, where they must have went. It was 12:33am. I’ve never stayed while she had company. That was a rule I stuck to religiously. This sort of relationship needs parameters. But this was the first time her company was a man.

I had the feeling this man was the one who made her cry the first night I saw her. It’s been two months! Where was he when it was raining and there was that leak in the ceiling, and she had to use buckets to catch the water in the middle of the night?  Where was he when she came home drunk that night and left the door unlocked? If it had been somebody else, somebody unsavory and criminal, they could have intruded into her house, instead I locked it for her and didn’t even look inside but for a few seconds — just a quick little peek, really.

I had no idea what they were doing in there.

I had to get a closer look.

Which brings me to why I’m telling you all this.

Why I need to explain my actions.

You see, I crept across the street, pass his car, and over to her living room window. Normally I don’t get this close, but this was a special circumstance. She needed me. There was a little space I could wedge into, between a bush and the wall. If I was careful I could peer in from the corner. I moved in quicker then normal prudence dictated but this was an emergency.

They were on the couch. He had his spindly arms wrapped around her and she was squirming in his clutch. Her face was buried in his shoulder but it looked like she was crying.

I always carry a knife. Because you never know.

Even though I didn’t have a plan I took it out. With my back on the wall I shimmied along the wall for a better look when I accidentally rubbed the garden faucet, turning it on. Water began slowly cascading down my back.

Damn it!

This might be a sign that I should run. I should take off right now and call it all a loss. But that’s not what warriors do. If this man was going to commit Evil I couldn’t let some soggy trousers defeat me.

I stayed and fought.

First I had to shut off the water. I couldn’t turn around so I groped for the handle blindly and couldn’t locate it. It continued to drench me as I listened for a sign that I’ve been detected. I could hear them talking, but it didn’t sound like it was about me, so I carefully twisted my body so I could find the damn handle and shut off the faucet, but now I was crouching in a giant mud puddle. I had to do something.

He could be murdering her right this instant.

I took a gamble and went around to the side where it was exposed to the neighbors. I didn’t care. I had to act. When I got to the window I stopped and laid my body flat against the wall and then turned my neck, so I could see  in.

They were on the couch still. Kissing. Her hand was cupped around the back of his head like a bowling ball. It was disgusting.

I was stunned. After all I’ve done. It felt like a butcher took a cleaver to my heart and turned it into giblets. All the time I’ve stayed here and watched over her. Those nights she cried and I wanted to hurt whoever did this to her, and here he was, defiling her before me. The disrespect!

A rage molested my soul and a desire to plunge my knife into this man’s chest possessed me. I was beside myself, this is truly important here, I was not me. I confess. I was hurt. There was something burning inside me that was unleashed and the burning was spreading and it lusted to burn to everything down. It wasn’t fair that he should come back and steal her away.

I decided to break in. I admit this. Only to prove to you how hurt I was. So you understand why I did what I did. Right then I was going to hurl my body through the window. But I stopped when I was blinded by a ring glinting on her finger. And then saw the inside of the box had a satin lining.

I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do now. My mind was tumbling like a horrible lottery wheel where the balls always land penniless and while I was putting the last pieces together, I noticed that she was looking right at me, and she was smiling.

That’s when I knew it was over between us.

And so I left.

But before I left I slit his tires. Popped holes in the rubber so wide I heard the air hissing out. Not out of malice, you see, but to make sure he didn’t leave this time. It was the final act of my perfect love.

Don’t tell anybody.

Clothes Dream

— sketches from a dream about clothes…

Two men, 40-ish, gobbling food in a rural dinner. Country folk all around them. These cats are obviously not from the area. One of them more than 6 and a half feet tall and was picking through a bag of clothes.

“At any point, you don’t have to do this,” the shorter man told him.

“At every point, nobody has to do anything. I don’t care about the law of zero. I care about dreams, and reinventing Capitalism, and bringing corduroy back, Holy, Mother Theresa!”

“Don’t say that,” his light-skinned companion with the tweed jacket implored.

“Why? She’s a real person.”

“She’s a saint now.”

“Even better,” the man with the clothes said.

The other diners began to give them looks, wondering what this madman and the rapper dude were doing in their town. The one who was yelling had a scroungy salt and pepper beard and feral eyeballs, the other one had bandages on his arm and a Russian fur hat. There was a peculiar blending of styles, culturally, ethnically, seeming both old and young at the same time, to the point that the identifier meant nothing. What are we really, but hungry or fed? Either way, they didn’t look like they belonged. Which meant that they were perfect for the times. What with everything changing…

“Are you ready to go back to Los Angeles?” The rapper asked.

The one with the beard shot back, “Not until I’ve made L.A. notice I’m gone.”

Their food came and they both studied at their plate of eggs and bacon and hash browns with a 19th century French hangdog look. Outside looked like rain.

A Little Like a Very Slow Plane…

Seagulls flapped around the trash can. They banged their big wings against the metal drum, their beaks raging against an unopened bag of Doritios. Steven took his keys out of his shorts and put them in the little pocket of his backpack. This was the spot the Earth succumbed to the sea. A great blending of the elements. Of attraction… us to oblivion. This is where what Man built becomes irrelevant.

Steven leaned back on the towel and wiggled his body into the sand, keeping his knees bent and his back flat so his legs formed a little lean-to.

He then spoke to his girlfriend by speaking directly into the air “There’s an oyster bake at Ken Richardson’s place tonight,” he announced into the distribution of air particles.

Chelsea finished watching a Snapchat video before turning toward Steven. There were invisible waves everywhere. She asked, “Do you like this bikini,” forgetting his question, but shaking her shoulders in a lackadaisical and sexy way that made him feel powerful. She was 23 and beautiful and he had no idea how fast it goes.

The bikini was hideous. Steven told her he liked the bikini even though he didn’t. It’s just so much easier to lie sometimes. It was white with a solid black stripe that made it look like her nipples were being censored. But her skin was covered with a blond down that made her nearly naked body shine in the Hampton light, so he didn’t really look at her bikini, anyway.

There were filters for everything.

She adjusted her top so her breasts oscillated in a way that hypnotized him. She caught him staring and laughed. For a second he felt like sucking his thumb.

He was stoned. Everything was glazed and magnified. There was four hundred dollars in his pocket. His timepiece was hand built by a 77 year-old Swiss watchmaker who never drove in his life.

There was an expensive tattoo of a birdhouse on her right shoulder done by a Japanese artist in New York. Her sandals were woven Cambodian balsa wood. The sun covered her body with delicate needles of light.

“Don’t do anything for a moment,” he told her, motioning for her to put her phone down.  Then he tilted his head back and squinted at the faint and feckless sky. “It’s so beautiful,” he said, taking off his glasses.

Chelsea set her phone down on the blanket where it sunk into the folds, and turned her cinnamon freckles up to the cloudless sky in a graceful manner that seemed to stop time. The sun obliterated all depth from the sky. It was like looking at a piece of blue paper. Like that brilliant flash right when your computer wakes up. Only their physical bodies mattered in this picture.

Side by side, their flesh glistened in perfect symmetry, like an optical illusion,  and it was all completely intentional, this photogenic pose. Chelsea and Steven. Their thing was being perfect together.

Exceptional in an one-dimensional way.

There’s was a carefully curated universe.

“Can you hear that?” Steven asked, shielding his eyes to scour the sky for the source of a cranking hum that slowly gained in frequency and decibel.  A sort of dream-wobble approaching… a churning of of molecules that filled their eardrums with oatmeal.

They both looked and listened and wondered.

“Is it a plane?” She asked.

It was a plane. They spotted it at the same time, flying really slowly, dragging a banner advertising the price of Gino’s on the Beach’s World Famous pepperoni slice. Steven has been there before, one time, before Chelsea. It came toward them up the shoreline. The way it flew didn’t seem plausible. It was only thirty feet above the water and seemed to be barely going thirty miles an hour. It chugged along and Steven fantasized about jumping up and grabbing the banner and yanking the plane down with it, but since they’re so close to the water, they’d land all gently and everybody would be alright and they’d all share a tremendous laugh about it.

He’d have drinks later with the survivors.

Chelsea looked over and shrugged. “Where’s my phone?” She asked, raking the blanket for it. Steven watched with a dull desire a hot day like today brings out. Once she found it again, she said, “Smile,” then cocked her phone at him and snapped his picture. Giggling, she called him handsome. The day shed another coat of paint.

Chelsea held the photo for him to see but he couldn’t make out anything out in the glare. It’s all a blur anyway.

It didn’t matter.

Later tonight there was an oyster party at the Randolph’s place on the beach. It was supposed to be just as beautiful tomorrow. There was always something to do. Steven thought about the time he was at Gino’s, there was woman in line whose purse was made of fake leopard fur. There was a fly on the red pepper shaker.

He looked out at the sea and the whitecaps and the thought of pizza stirred a numbness that had settled at the bottom of his soul.

The grease and those paper plates and especially the tourist types hanging around.

The gross devouring.

The idea of it all made him melancholy.

Yet, he didn’t know why, he was just glad he wasn’t one of them.

A Grave in Burbank

The dead have no use for us.

All we are are just a bunch of noisy, yammering bipeds. I came to this conclusion upon a trip to visit my dad’s grave. My dad was cremated so I’m not even sure if ‘grave’  is the right word. But he’s in the ground in a cemetery so I guess it is.

Forest Lawn is in Burbank, California, right behind Warner Brothers Studios. I don’t know why’d you want to spend eternity in Burbank, but that was his final wish (along with, please don’t let me die, I’m sure). After my older sister asked him what he’d like us to do with his ashes, expecting him to say ‘spread me out at sea’, he told us, “Somewhere by grandma, near a nice little tree.”

My dad is up the road from his mother and under a sweeping oak. The cemetery is a vibrant carpet of green grass with a cute white chapel at the bottom of a rolling hill. There’s no denying its serenity.

The sprawl of the San Fernando Valley is in the distance and seems like another world.  Millions of people sleeping in beds and driving in cars, wrapped up in a life that is equal parts limitless and fleeting. All the fucking going on. And fucking over.  Just a giant fuckfest. While all these dead people sleep.

The living are still going about it all wrong.

I got out of my Volvo and found my dad. They’re still in the process of creating the grave tablet so for now there’s nothing with his name on it to look at. All the other headstones are for people who’ve died a long time ago.

Not one year ago to the day.

I wondered who visits them? What do they say?

I wondered what I’m supposed to say.

I sat on the curb and tried not to look awkward, which is basically impossible in a cemetery. I stared at my feet and made sure to keep my new white high-tops out of the dirt. When the groundskeepers drove by in their jeeps, I didn’t know if I was supposed to wave or not. I felt silly worrying about my new white high-tops. Why do I even own a pair of white high tops? I walk too much for that.

There was a funeral procession making their way up the road. I waited for them to pass. A series of cars with the headlights on in the day. Shining for what? It’s all part of the business of burying the dead. The following of rituals so we can distract ourselves from what we’re really doing. With the solemn parade passed I returned to my own business.

I wanted him to know I cared. That I remembered. I came.

I began to talk. I started with work. I told him about the show I work on. I told him that I missed him, then I laughed out loud about talking out loud. Then I told him about Monkee, my cat. He was a veterinarian and cats were a soft spot for him. I told him how much I loved Monkee, and that sometimes I wish I could tell him about Monkee on the phone, because I forget he’s gone. And because that cat means so much to me. I got Monkee at a time I was losing control and adrift in a kind of self-loathing leaking raft and that little four-legged furball sorta brought me into port. That’s how I explained it.

We’re buddies… That little furball and me. He looks after me as much as I do him. Is it weird to think that a little bit of my dad lives in that cat? Or more like sometimes when I look at that ornery feline asshole I see him with my dad’s eyes.

How do you visit a grave and not think about the soul?

I mean: is he in that little demarcation of terra firma? Was he listening? Was some piece of his ear still working? Some speck of cochlea tingling?

Were we chit chatting in any way whatsoever?

If I were a free-floating soul, I wouldn’t hang out in Burbank. Although, I hear they’re getting a Shake Shack soon. No, wait, that’s Glendale. The whole Valley terrifies me. I want no part of it, living or dead. His last years were spent on cruise ships and in fine dinning halls…

I thought I was going to leave around 10 o’clock and still found myself there twenty minutes later. Then it was an hour later. The morning had slowly grown stubble and was becoming afternoon. I had nothing more to talk about. I just hung out and counted the leaves.

There was a nagging thought pin-balling through my brain. I didn’t really like the idea that maybe he’d get the impression he had to stick around Burbank. Like, he felt responsible to be here if I came back. I tried to explain that I can feel him everywhere. I don’t need to be here to see him.

He should really fly, now’s the time for it. I let him know it. But I still will come. I just won’t come for you, I’ll come for me.

I told him, “It is a nice little tree.”