Pop Candy – Episode 2


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It hadn’t always been this way. Once, he was one of the top three tennis players in his class. He had a good group of friends. About 43% of them, he had calculated one day, went away to college after high school– Brown, Duke, Stanford, Bryn Mawr, Vanderbilt. His two closest buddies, Johnny and Damien, told him that he was the smartest guy they knew. One of them ended up at Harvard Law. The other one was an adjunct professor of American Studies at some school in Paris. He forgot which one. Alex, however, still had four credits to go in his philosophy degree from the state university. Sure, he could’ve ended up in a think tank somewhere, but what was the point, really? He could breeze through “Notes from the Underground” in an afternoon, but he preferred playing a round of frisbee golf with a six pack and some valium at the course two blocks from his parent’s house. When Johnny and Damien would come home for the holidays, they happily slipped into Alex’s world which was a constant and true respit from adult life.

“Alex… take that $50 on the side table in the foyer and take the boys to El Patio for some margaritas,” Mrs. Whitney would say. Alex would stuff it into his neon orange and green velcro wallet and the three would head out to suck down some drinks and coat their stomachs with tortilla chips, salsa and piping hot queso. But the last time they hung out, there was no more talk about this or that chick. They stopped talking about the road trip to Belize or the t-shirt business/beer joint they would one day start together. Alex had worked up logos for it just before the guys had arrived. He took a whole night while he listened to Ben Lee on “Pop Candy” and made a business plan. It was two pages.

Since then, the trips to the outside world had become fewer and farther between. There was no phobia, then. Just a lack of motivation. He got an e-mail from Damien that he had met a French girl in Thailand. It just so happened that she lived only two miles from him. When they both returned to France, they got engaged. Johnny was steadily climbing the ranks of the law firm where he worked– was it tax law, or something sexy like being a prosecutor? He couldn’t remember, and he didn’t really care. He knew that his boys were sell outs. He knew that they really wanted to be entrepreneurs and bachelors just like him. They were pathetic. Maybe he could start the bar on his own. But his parents wouldn’t go for it. They were stingy and ridiculously frugal and they would never part from their money to feed his dream.

“Why don’t you support me?” he would ask them one night at dinner. Mrs. Whitney got hammered and decided that she was a chef and poured everything she could find into a crock pot. She used a bottle of wine from her wedding forty years earlier to make stew. It was terrible.

“We support you. You have a room. You have dinner. Everything else is up to you.”

Random Word Generator: When I am Eighty








When I am eighty– if I get to eighty– the moments of truth, beauty and heart-stirring reality I will recall with powerful ease. The head lines up a manner of crafty collusions pouring through memories and mistakes made in a hazy fight to be right. Where is wisdom in years anymore? How can the sunlight produce such reds and greens and all manner of things that sing, fly and simply be? Why does the pale moon salute itself and run in slow motion across the inky sky when most people do not care to see the celestial race? Because it is. That “being”, that “is”, that “here we are.” Now what? We call on ballerinas and oils and terra cotta gardens fleecing our minds from the feeling of what is. Beauty can do that, but the sleepy birds lining up periously before a storm, or the rattling of old instruments in angry hands, or methods of crying that burst into a spotlit room– these can be the undoing of a soul, too. Herald the callings to have the second to last word.

Random Word Generator: Theory on Old Love








You have written a story on my body which can never be erased. Perhaps this is the day to test the theory on love that was too long waiting in the recesses of the mind, skipping wildly into important plot points in dreams filled with penguins marching cruel circles around us.

We do not belong here. Or at least you don’t. I can wrap myself up in “Steve” the body pillow and sleep with eyes half shut like a soldier. The feeling of loss is fresh again, and I consider ways to make certain you do not enter my mind to fester, do your bad magic or build a new bridge to me when I least expect it.

I am sunshine. I am colorful wildflowers. Nearby, I can hear the trains of the railroad I have never seen and not wish to get on… anymore.

Pop Candy – Episode 1


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About the time Alex was scheduled to pick up his parents at the airport, he realized that the girl he had been admiring from afar, Ava, would be starting her radio show, “Pop Candy” on the local co-op station. Before he could get going, he had to check that the tank was full, and the car did not smell of cigarettes or pot. Chrysler LeBarons were not hip cars, but Alex and his Dad had managed to put in a sweet stereo system— sort of a father/son project- last summer. During all hours he liked to sit in the car and read magazines or listen to music and drink a beer or two. Even if there were traces of trust-breaking evidence, his parents usually turned a blind eye to them. For the trip home, he would climb in the back seat and make sure everything was kosher, and no beer cans were left floating and banging under the seats. God forbid Dad would let Alex drive the family around, anyway.

He started slowly down the interstate at a reasonable clip and turned on the radio.

“I’ll be with you until 6 o’clock, and coming up we have Spoon with ‘I Turn My Camera On.’ Let’s check it out,” Ava announced.

Just what he wanted. Knowing that her voice could be instantly called up at the touch of his finger gave Alex an immense sense of joy. Long before Alex discovered “Pop Candy” and Ava, he really never had an interest in alternative pop music. Music was music, but he thought that the idea, even the whole genre of alternative pop was a ridiculous oxymoron. Naturally, he was most encouraged to give the show a chance when he heard Ava’s voice. On the radio, she sounded sweet, smart, passionate and mostly just very cool. Possibly, he would meet her one day at a café downtown, or maybe in the lobby of an old movie theater. Question was, wouldn’t that be sort of a stalker fantasy?

“Rolling along,” Ava said, “that was Spoon for everyone trying to find some decent tunes for that summer soundtrack. Speaking of summer, it is hot as hell which is good for me because apparently that keeps you guys indoors, or in your car, for your daily dose of alternative pop music. Today we have some Voxtrot, Beirut, The Rumours, followed by some of the bands that started it all like the Velvet Underground. You know Lou Reed has a special place in my heart– I got my first kiss from a guy named Ray when “Sweet Jane” was on the radio, but I always think of Lou.”

She sounded relaxed and happy today, Alex thought. Tonight, he would go to her website and see if she’s posted any new pictures. Unless, of course, his Dad hogged the computer again, which he probably would, because no access to e-mail for four days makes his Dad pretty anxious. Virtually every time his father came home, Alex was reduced to spending most of his time in his bedroom—the same bedroom he’s had for the last 31 years. When his mother comes in with the classifieds, or phone messages or mail, Alex usually asks for a tuna melt with Fritos, banana pudding, a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, and that’s about it.

Xenophobia, agoraphobia, even a brief stint with arachnophobia almost had gotten the best of Alex. Yards away from the driveway, then a street block, and now the straight ten minute bi-weekly car ride to the airport.

Bjork is coming up next,” Ava cooed. “And this one’s going out to Alex.”

Random Word Generator: The Purpose is Joy







If I listen closely… just quiet the thoughts that can shamelessly slice up the best words I can use this day, there is a shallow laughing that bursts curiously into my chest. The compulsion to notice this, draw it close to a memory: I can barely breathe when I fling myself daringly high from an unsupervised swing . It has taught me this: a stubborn drum has fought for my attention since the first time I lost my breath on the playground, or unceremoniously crushed my glasses or passed judgement simply to feel that the reigns of my life are woven inexplicably through the tender, glassy veins of my arms, across the back, up the spine and into the needle sharp pins of perfection where breath comes in, then out. Give, receive, and please let the creative play of getting past this past lead to throwing open my arms so wide to my imagination that I do not wait for a chance to swing again; and being chic can be my survival; or being clear of self-doubt can explode these pockets of petty mischief that cloud the purpose: joy.

Random Word Generator: Next Step


When you stay back at the house as the storm comes low and near, picture harmonies running through your living room laced in thunder and pride. Feel the hums of nature crawling through your closets and cupboards and loose tiles ready to burst into clouds of color and light when you realize there is nothing to fear here. Stay close to your things, and know that the body knows how to hide from the trespasses of the past. Inching forward in the rain to the mailbox on the corner, expect a bright blue card, a gift or the nothing at all. The pressure ceases when just being here collapses like a soft cake doused with milk. We are refining the moments now, clean and unfettered by opportunities which don’t sound like much, but feel like everything.

Random words courtesy of…

Random Word Generator: New Age



New Age

Luke Skywalker


Chess game


The trail has been lifted off the page; it was tape and old and I did not know this when I signed the letter marked “urgent” on the day that we met. How could I have missed this? We blame so much on youth and stupidity when our parents are to blame for leaving us alone too much, too often; for not directing us to love each other or ourselves the way we should. We needed specifics. Our happiness was as delicate as a giant sugar sculpture on a hot day. We were children in the night and grown-ups the next morning dragging through the streets with worries like large felt suits hanging off of us, tripping our steps. Then the wind grows stiller, then more still and stops. But it doesn’t matter. For as much as we claim the moment, we love as well as our past permits us and we live in future moments dripping with haste and fury and the sound of thunder. We tread in a jungle that has been shorn and left to fend for itself. There is no Luke Skywalker in the government or in business or in the family. We lead our happiness around in a box stuffed with papers– receipts, old poems, lists, mad questions and sincere signatures. We think that all has lead to this with no mistakes… everything with a purpose. When I wake up in the New Age, I’ll know it– it will make the sky turn purple at 3 and birds will sound smart. I could win a chess game in the New Age, and it’s OK that there is no meaning in the mistakes of our youth– only lessons which can never be applied. Only regrets which can never be diminished. Only you over there and me right here.

Depression and Writing


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It’s taken me a while to figure out the thing I’m an expert on. Aside from being an expert on writing and figuring out how to be in the world without being killed, incarcerated or famous, I know something about depression. Real. Clinical. Depression.

Mind you, I’ve been dealing with it since I can remember which technically qualifies me as someone with “early onset major depressive disorder.” That sounds downright Oscar-worthy. But the fact is that– like being middle class or double jointed or from Texas– I just didn’t know there was any other way to be. I thought everyone had an annoying chorus of negative thoughts and weekends spent in bed and a dull sense that there had been a mistake in my being born. I had fantasies of joining the unknown in my sleep– my soul and neurons and unleashed bliss could rejoin the cosmic soup which has played a cruel yet hilarious joke on the whole of humanity. I was convinced we could all experience peace and joy when the lines between “me” and “others” could finally be dismantled in death.

Why I am blabbing on like a psych patient? Because that’s what I think about. That’s what I’ve always thought about– since I was 9 or 10. I can’t really tell you the exact age, which is one really terrible quality of depression. I have virtually no long term memory of years, places, people, experiences. But I do remember how I felt. I can tell you how I felt when I was three years old, seven years old, 12, 19 and on and on. But I depend on other people to give me back my memories. The memories I have are given back to me through filters of sympathy, confusion, judgment, remorse, victory and emotional peril. I take people’s word for it that I have an infectious laugh and a great smile. I don’t need to remember those times, because the smiles and laughter are my rewards for cutting through the infection of my disease, and that’s more than good enough. It’s good enough because every breathless, hysterical laughing fit, every happy tear, every sincere smile is mine and lives in me somewhere. For months and even years at a time, I can feel them running for their lives like the last living people in a zombie wasteland.

Lack of memories is a big reason I became I writer. I thought I needed to remember every last detail of my life like a supernatural Netflix series. But I don’t. What I do need to remember is that for every self help book or spiritual practice I’ve devoured, I always left out some critical key ingredient in understanding myself, my pain and my place in this world. My brain… and its smaller than normal hippocampus.

Depression sucks.

Random Word Generator: My Muse


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Several years ago, I think it was in college, I got into an exercise where I would ask someone to give me five random words. I would say “location” or “song title” or “emotion” or whatever seemed to pop into my head at the time. Sometimes I was suprised by the words my friends would give me. Other times, I felt challenged and borderline annoyed when I’d get words like “killer bees” or “yummy” or “Boise, Idaho.” These would throw me off, because for me part of the process was writing something that felt connected to the person giving me these words. I would often go into the exercise thinking I would learn something about my friend simply by the word choices they would offer up. And I did. I learned some of them liked to screw with me and give me hard words. But always up for the challenge, I’d pull something together. The trick was that I’d give myself less than ten minutes to complete a poem or piece of prose or whatever it ended up being. I wish I had copies of some of these exercises, but they were mostly done on the fly– written on ATM receipts or some other piece of paper. I’d almost always give the poem to the person, and God knows what they would do with it.

I like this exercise a lot because most of the time I feel as though I am half-functioning in a haze of lists and preparation and recovering from lack of sleep. I don’t feel “clear” most of the time. So when I do these poems, they are waking dreams. They force me to instantaneously zero in the happy little party that is my subconscious mind. Because my existence is one of contstant sleep interruption and it’s been almost one full year since I’ve gotten a solid night’s sleep, I believe it’s actually physically changed my body, including my brain. That said, my dreams have been intense little vignettes that I’ve given up analyzing. If anyone can tell me why I am trying to talk Amy Winehouse out of stalking former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill for his autograph and a cup of tea, please let me know.

I’m also a bit tied to the homestead these days, so it’s not as though I have a lot of people I can ask for words. So I found this nifty little site to help me get some inspiration. And, of course, send me five words (mix it up– places, proper name, adjective, animal, whatever) and I’ll (try to) send you a piece. For now, these are the words I’ve just been given:

silver, Merlin, godly, Gwen Stefani, productive

OK. Here goes…

In a more beautiful version of my life, my silver tea service is always so bright and clean that I could see you sneaking up on me. I am so productive– the stage stamina of a 1999 Gwen Stefani– that I can weed the garden or paint the ceiling in a half hour, maybe less.

But there is a fine, pervasive dust encroaching on my dining room that will not let up. In the autumn, we can barely plan our days. One day 80 degrees. The next we are finding old sheets or muslin or anything that breathes in hopes of protecting the hibiscus, the Mexican heather, the Knock-Out roses from perishing in the ice storm that will be here in less than twelve hours.

So instead of perfect, there is our storybook place– not other worldly, but there is always something good to eat, a subtle mystery to be solved in a house with a man, a woman, a boy, a cat, a dog, books and the desperate imaginations of the deserted. I could tell the neighbors, even the mean ones, that Merlin was real and I met him in my most recent previous life. My conviction is total and a line of scruffy believers swarm the cul-de-sac.

A storybook house has a godly allure. We hope the boy doesn’t catch on that all we’ve done is pour our little miseries and desires into these things. These bits of magic, dreary but clean clothes, fiestaware and family portraits will keep us together. We hope.