Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Brother's Rules to Owning a Dog

"Hey Dog, you keep it up and I'm going to drive you out to the desert and leave you there." - brother

"Stop talking to him like that." - mother

"Mom, as long as I say it in that excited voice, he has no idea what I'm saying." - brother

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"The Grandest of Grand, For The Curious Love"

"The Grandest of Grand, For The Curious Love"
a poem dedicated to jason kornfeld and written as fast as possible by jake kilroy.

A sleepy town with sleepy vixens,
bellowed the wind with all its fixings,
no miracle mile for the dreaded last call,
as no patriots wait it out after all.
So the drinkers caved and saved their coins,
strayed from bars and spayed their loins,
to keep a good walk home the tamest act,
breathing the winter's cold in their thickest hat,
squinting under the brim, to make it home,
just to feel like they were sleeping alone,
while their wife looked dapper and cozy too,
and their children slept without a waking coo,
and as they brushed their teeth in the draft,
they thanked the Lord for the Christmas they had.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Eufaula? Checotah? Owasso? Coweta? Ok, Oklahoma, I get it. You love Native American city names that make me sound drunk when I say them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I Want You (To Tell Me If I'm Breaking Your Heart)

I saw an ex-girlfriend last night, which is something I suppose boys do around Christmas. This is all the more intriguing because her and I haven't been on good/speaking terms for nearly three years.

But seeing her again was like old times, no strange pulls between us. It was very genuine and very much like old college friends. I hadn't seen her since I was a 21-year-old drunk. Now, a mature 24-year-old semi-drunk, we went to a fancy New Orleans restaurant and I wore dress shoes, black slacks, a black tie and a white shirt (with rolled-up sleeves). At my very best, I looked like someone from Mad Men. At my worse, I probably just looked like some poser who wanted to look like a guy in Mad Men. I mostly dressed up because I was in South County and...something, something South County.

Anyway, it was a lot of sharing stories and vague allusions to us not speaking to each other for years. It was eerily comfortable. So, once the restaurant died down, we went to a bar to continue filling in the blanks of the last three years. I got a whiskey on the rocks and she got something called Cocoa Delight or something. She said she ordered it to drink summer in winter.

Everything was grand until she told me about a journal she kept for two years, keeping track of her sanity in law school. She mentioned that there were a number of entries about me from years ago. I said that she needed a new journal, now that we're friends again and she said, "Yeah, I'll need it for when you fuck up in 2010."

And then the whiskey felt heavy. And then the conversation seemed long. And then the night seemed blurry, like I were drunk driving through the motions of the evening.

I suppose that's what guilt feels like when it comes on stronger than any liquor you have in you. It becomes a smashing weight that you can't see. Suddenly, everything just feels spilled and tainted. Needless to say, I ordered two more whiskeys.

A short time later, the guilt slapped me around again. And it was somehow because of fruit (just one more reason for me not to eat fruit).

She had cherries in her drink. She asked, "Do you want one?"

"No, that's ok," I said.

"Is it because you don't like cherries or you just don't want them?"

"Which one makes me sound manlier?"

"Jake, I think we've known each other long enough to where you can be honest right now."

"Ok, no, I don't like cherries."

"You don't like cherries?" she said, laughing and appalled. "God, break my heart again, why don't you?"

I didn't say anything. I had a very puzzled look of remorse.

She laughed. "Oh, come on, are we not joking about that yet?"

"No," I told her, "because there's nothing funny about breaking your heart."

She was clearly beyond whatever happened years ago and I suppose I wasn't, and I guess I didn't know that until then. Over the years, I have somehow designed myself to absorb guilt like a sponge. Take the guilt into the very pores of my body and see how well it can run on guilt (and spite, probably). When I was younger, I think I saw it as some senseless sort of pride or inane badge of honor.

Look how damaged I can be, just as a 20-year-old, I probably once thought. The tortured artist of the 21st Century, ruined in a time and place where absolute wreckage does not exist. It was silly, but I had always had a secret wonderful fill of being a let down to women. God help me, I don't know how to explain it so that I sound like a real person.

But then I got my head together, got into a long-term relationship and came out the other side as a real person. For as much poetry I could find in it, I got shaky in a rather stressful way. Like an adult, I guess. When I was younger, the thrill of poetry in day-to-day life excused problems and excited me. Now that I'm older, I can see the poetic lines of everyday, but I can keep taking body blows every day. Everything about me is weaker, except for my integrity and my intelligence. When I was younger, I was arrogant and reckless, which makes you the strongest person (because you're too good to be no good and, ultimately, you don't give a shit). Instead, you churn out propaganda and let yourself laugh about things everyone takes seriously. You have no reason to be quiet and you have no interest in being a sap. You just become a barreling sound of laughter and yelling, constantly rolling until you hit something that won't move and you spend years dealing with the dizziness.

There had to be a few lines of poetry in me sitting in a bar, dressed nicely in black and white, drinking whiskey as a girl I haven't spoken to in years tells me that I'll fuck up in the new year or jokes about breaking her heart. And it made me laugh on the drive home, but for every laugh, there was a massive sigh that blew through my big city body with everyone asleep. Jesus, when I was 21, it was like my body was New Orleans or New York City during the Rolling 20s (riotous, careless and loud). My body is now in a terrible recession, as I learn to deal with the monumental challenge of adulthood.

What she said changed how I acted the rest of the evening. I was still engaged in what she was saying and I still had a very, very good time catching up with her, drinking myself into a stunning sobriety and then legitimately sobering up on the pier, but there was still a lingering quiet in me that lurks in the cold city shadows of a person's eternal night. There. There's a poetic line. I don't know where I was going with it, but...well, there's a place inside everyone where you need an old lantern to see.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Dad Doesn't Think Very Much Of Orlando

My Dad was in Orlando for his magazine's annual trade show. Here was the the opening paragraph of his e-mail:

I write to you far away in that dreaded land of Orlando where mullet jokes aren't funny and a full set of teeth is rare as a smile on a gator. It's the kind of place that Californians call weird. I'm pretty sure there are swamp guys here that smoke and chew tobacco at the same time. And there's girls who think that's sexy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts On The Rocks

It's a curious place to find your thoughts when you're drinking whiskey alone in an airport tiki lounge just two weeks before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

James & I Try Out Southern Speak...And It Goes Uncomfortably Well

Here's what happened: My job had a big-everyone-in-the-company meeting and, since I don't really know anyone at this job, I introduced myself to people I talked to. The first person I met actually e-mails me a lot at this job about corrections and editing, but she and I had never met in-person. So I figured this was a regular deal. Then I introduced myself to another girl and she seemed confused. Later on, I realized that I had met her at a very small meeting the week before. So I IMed her to apologize for my poor memory and my bad manners. She didn't respond right away and I began to remember there being two girls with the same name. I was sure that I had just apologized to the wrong girl. This would make one girl with that name annoyed and another one totally confused about my IM. Anyway, James gave me some advice in a random stereotypical (and probably offensive) southern dialect over the internet and it spiraled out of control from there.

Holeeeee shiite and sunni, boy, you done gone swimmin' with no trunks on.

JAKE: I ain't neva been to no waterin' hole wiffout my trunks on! Think I just moved into these here parts, but, no sir, I been around. This whole talkin' thing is kinda new to me, so, well, I don't know, shucks, my brain is a-more slipperie than a baboon's rump after he done gone sat in butter. I'm awful red, like one of them firetrucks you see sometimes out there on that there road.

JAMES: Damn skippy.

JAKE: Shucks, they most never slow down! One of 'em gone done near took my arm off! Thank the lawrd that I was playin' my hermonica at the time.

Hey, boy, you 'bout as comfy as a bull humping a duck. Gol' dang emails and whatnot. Now here's what yer gonna do. And listen good because, as my pappy used to say, I'm only gonna tell you once before I hit you.


JAMES: Somehow, yer gonna have to get them there girls to believe they're each the wrong gal.

JAKE: But howsa I'm gonna do thayat?

JAMES: Now, some city folk don't believe this here parlor trick is possible, but believe you me, once you've seen a bull fuck a duck, well, you 'bout likely to believe almost anything. Now, first things first. Git yerself some raccoon ball powder. I would send you some but I'm running low and the corner store ain't gonna see no resupply 'til the snow melts. Sprinkle some of that ball powder right over yonder on the gal's morning corn cob. Might wanna put some salt on it with it. Raccoon ball tends to get mighty strong flavor. Once them young fillies get that ball powder in their blood, boy, you best step back a good yard or two, because they won't know if they're coming or going. Give 'em 'bout five minutes and after clucking their little heads off, both of 'em will fall fast asleep faster than a baby with a tit in its mouth. Once that happens, you git those desks rearranged, ya hear? Pictures, keyboards, pens, you name it. Put hers over there and vice-ah-versa. Blim, blam, presto.

Boy, when God was makin' you, I'm pretty sure he done gone left some screws out.

JAMES: Heh. That's what my pappy used to say right before he walloped me something good.

JAKE: I don't even know where any of them sits! Oh, and my pappy did a lot more wallopin' than talkin'. He used to say that if I didn't shut my moueth, he was done gonna let his five friyends do the talkin'! But I would always tell him, I would say, "Pappy, you ain't got no friyends. You're what the reverend calls a derelict." Oh, boy, he put me to sleep right then there, he did.

Har har.

JAKE: Was out colder than a lake in winter. Slept right there in the kitchen.

JAMES: That's some good shellackin'.

JAKE: Sure was. That's why I never held it against my pappy that he left me all them different colors, you see. I mean, he taught me a lesson right there, he did. Papa shoulda been a boxer.

Your daddy sure did know his way around a ring. Kept your mama on her toes, that's for sure. Never let her say nothing. She would open her mouth and his fist would be halfway to her face.

Mama called it "the fastest train in the world." And then I would say sumthin' like, "Hey, but now what about them Japs?" And then she would wallop me!

JAMES: Now, boy, that's your own fault now. You know what year it is? It's the future, son. You can't be runnin' around callin' them Japs or Nips anymore. This is America. Sure, they asked for it back in Dubya Dubya Two, but they're working for us now. It's "orientals." Heh. How you ever graduated all that schoolin' is beyond me, boy.

Beats me. I only showed up to school mostly just to get outta all the wallopin' at home. You know they done gave me some award for showin' up ev'ryday?

Is that right?

Sumthin 'bout perfect allegiance or sumthin'. I said, "Good, because I love this here country." And they said, "What?" And I said, "Huh?" And then, pretty soon, I thought they was gonna wallop me! It's them, Japs, I tell ya. Movin' all in, screwin' up our here schoolin'.

JAMES: Now, see, there you go again, usin' the wrong word.

JAKE: Wrong word? Boy, I ain't said a wrong word since I first got walloped.

JAMES: Boy, I swear, it goes in one ear and out the other. It's not allegiance. It's attendance. Damn, you stupid or sumthin'?

JAKE: Attendance? I ain't doin' no dancin'. I was just goin' to school or sumthin. What they gonna give me a dancin' prize fo? I just show up to skuel and they gonna tell me I'm a good dancer? Well, I am, but they ain't got nuthin' to do with it. Jesus, boy, you been drinkin' the bottom barrel moonshine too long if you think they gonna give me a dancin' prize for just sittin' there and listenin' to some teacher.

JAMES: Well, I guess yer right. I ain't never been to no classroom. Drove by it a couple times but they said all them girls weren't fit to be married none yet. So I just kept on drivin'.

Wait a minute. Now just wait a minute here. How old was you when you started drivin'?

Well, how old is anybody when they start drivin'? Ten, I guess.

Late bloomer, eh? Yea, me too. Was even worse for me. I didn't even sit in a workin' car 'til I was in the backseat of one trying to get up Mary Ellen Sue's skirt.

JAMES: Wait. I was born in the cold snap of ' that would make me....hold on now...Mama said I gots to learn my 'rithmic. That would make me 11 years old.

JAKE: Boy, you got enough 'rithmic. I seen you dance! I seen you dance with them gurls from near that there river and you hardly ever drop any of 'em. Me, I got two left hands. Can't catch nuthin' but some river flu.

Hahaha. Boy, you just like that Seinfeld fella. Hee-larious.

JAKE: Oh yeah, I saw of them shows. I laffed at the music, butI kinda missed everything else, you know. Whole time i was watchin' it, I thought, "Hey, when's that Larry The Cable Guy gonna come out here and tell some jokes?" I don't care much for that there city humor.

JAMES: Well, no shit, Sherman! The music's the best dang part!

I know, but all they do there is sit around some coffee shop like a bunch of rich people. Why em I gonna watch thayat?

JAMES: Well, goll-ee, Jake, you ever heard of sumthin' called culture?

Culture? Sure have! There's one of them that meets over there beyond Old Man Fields. They all dress up in the same clothes and talk like crazy people. All talkin' the same, all dressin' the same, bunch of hippies, that culture.


They got new ideas? Probly not. Probly just like every other culture. Man, they probly never even set foot in no church. That Seinfeld fella too. And all his friends. Probly a bunch of godless sinners, ya ask me. 'Cept for that Kramer fella. Got a funny way a-comin' inta places.

JAMES: Yeah, boy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I'm The Most Awkward Customer Ever (Part II: I Bleed All Over H&M's Merchandise)

Following my haircut (Part I: I'm No Good At Salon Small Talk plays a role in this story), I decided to maybe rev up my appearance. I mean, I had a haircut and I've been putting off buying new I went out and bought new shoes.

Then, I decided to keep going and finally buy a belt that wasn't falling apart and making me look like a savage or mental patient. It's stretched and falling apart and just all-around crazy. So I went to H&M because I heard they also have good deals on polo shirts, which I need for my job (people may be starting to notice that I only have six collared shirts for my five days of work every week).

I get to the H&M at the Irvine Spectrum. Once inside, I immediately realize how rarely it is that I buy clothes like a real person. I usually wait for gifts, warehouse sales or just a random thing I see that's cool. I almost never go out to browse. I try on some jackets and some sweaters, winding through all these sharper dressers. I then realize how unsafe and unhip I feel around fashionable people. It's like they know something I don't.

Finally, I get around to trying on a white polo shirt. It fits nicely, but when I put it back on the rack, I notice a massive reddish smear. It looks like make-up or something. I think, "How the hell did I not notice that when I first picked it up?" Then I worry it's from me. I touch my neck to see if I had accidentally reopened a cut from shaving or something. Nope. Nothing.

Weird. Someone just smeared a bunch of make-up on that shirt like a fucking weirdo. See, this is why I don't go shopping, I think.

Then, I try on a plain white t-shirt. I set it back down on the rack. There's blood on this one! Actual drops of blood! What the fuck is happening here? It's like a crazy part in a horror movie. I touch my neck again. No blood. It has to be me. But how? Then I somehow convince myself that I just happened to pick out the two already ruined white shirts in the store by some grand inane implausible coincidence. I don't know how I did it, but I did.

Now, in line to pay for my stuff, I'm next to a mirror, so I check out my neck in the mirror. Nope. No blood. Then I check the other side of my neck. Nope. No blood there...


I see my ear. Apparently, from the looks of it, I have been shot in the head by a bazooka and I had no idea. It looks like there is a serious fucking head wound on the left side of my head. My ear is totally bloody.


No, thankfully, I am not, and did not. I learn this as I frantically dab my ear with my a crazy person. There is now blood all over my hands. I am now rubbing them together as fast as I can, trying to mash the blood into my skin. This is, of course...insane. It looks like I'm washing my hands with soap in a bathroom...except I'm in some kind of invisible bathroom in the middle of a fucking H&M and it's blood that is clearly from the side of my head.

I don't get very far before a tall, attractive blonde (apparently, they work everywhere on Sundays) says, "I can help the next customer."

Approaching her from my "good side," I hand her my two polo shirts and belt, careful not to touch the white shirt with my hands (which I am also trying to hide, because there is still visible blood on my knuckles.

I feel very uneasy about the entire situation. My eyes go all squirrely as I try to figure out just how what happened to me...happened to me. I finally decide that the stylist had marked me earlier (after a closer inspection upon returning home, it looked more like a thin slit than a small cut). I think she sliced me with the scissors, it for some reason stopped and then pushing and pulling clothes over my head kicked it open again.

"Do you need gift receipts? Or are you treating yourself?" the girl asks very warmly.

"Oh...I'm treating myself," I respond, followed by a mock guilty look, as I struggle to appear like a normal person (you know, like one who hasn't just tried to get away with committing homicide on himself in public).

"You don't need to feel guilty," she says, smiling.

"True. I'll probably start feeling guilty closer to Christmas," I say with what could have been considered a shitty talk show host impression.

But, still, things are going well, it seems. And then a drop! A drop of blood hits my ear lobe. Oh no! This is goddamn ridiculous, I think. I can now feel my head leaking. I tell myself, "I'm like that goddamn Headwound Harry sketch from Saturday Night Live (the one where Dana Carvey just ruins parties by bleeding everywhere on everything and everyone). I have officially become a disaster." I am now a joke of a person, I figure. I have just become the character in television shows and movies that I don't think could really exist.

"Did you get this belt over there?" she suddenly asks, pointing.

I don't follow her finger. Instead, I just stare at the counter (I think).

"Oh...yeah," I say, somewhere between mumbling and speaking.

"Over there, by the jackets, right?"

She points again. I still don't move my head.

"Yeah, over there by the jackets," I repeat like this is my first interaction with a stranger.

"Oh ok. There's no price tag on this belt, so I'm going to go grab one just like it."

She leaves and I keep my head at an angle where she won't see the protruding gash I call an ear. She returns, scans the belt and finishes up. I take the bag from her, mumble something incoherent and hurry the fuck out of the store.

I still have yet to decide how I feel exactly about people that were in the Irvine H&M store tonight going home and telling everyone they know, "Holy shit, you're not going to believe this. I was in H&M tonight and there was a guy who had his ear missing like Vincent Van Gogh just smearing his blood all over the white shirts. It was total fucking insanity. This absolute crazy person just walked around trying on things, like it was no big deal, just totally ignoring the fact that he was dripping blood everywhere. He was just totally ignoring the fact that he was smearing blood all over these nice clothes. How could you possibly ignore that? And then he got in line, still bleeding to death, and bought all of these other shirts that he didn't actually ruin. I've never seen anything like it."

See, this is the whole problem with consumerism: people like me.

I'm The Most Awkward Customer Ever (Part I: I'm No Good At Salon Small Talk)

Today, I got a haircut.

I can't remember the last haircut that I didn't give myself or let my friend give me after a few beers. I usually just use the buzzer on it's highest setting and call it a day. But it was for a good cause. All the proceeds went to the Friends of Orange County's Homeless Pets. My buddy John was doing P.R. for the Cut-A-Thon / Pet Adoption event. John was there with my other friend Nikki (which is no surprise, as the two are married).

I was catching up with the two of them and updating them about single life, which is always an intriguing subject with married couples. I always feel, no matter what, like I'm either showing off or admitting that I am wildly irresponsible. It doesn't matter what the married couple does or says, I always feel this way (even though John and Nikki are one of my favorite married couples to hang out with).

Then, halfway through a sentence, some tall, attractive blonde girl at the counter asks, "Who's Jake?" I raise my hand and follow her to a chair. She leaves, so I start reading a gossip magazines. John and Nikki approach me and tell me there's wine here for the event and I should offer my stylist some. I'm halfway through an obscene response when the stylist reappears. John and Nikki leave giggling.

I follow the sylist to a sink, where she washes my hair and asks, "This wouldn't be the first time somebody's asked you if this is your natural hair color, would it?"

My response was more a string of fractured jokes and confused remarks instead of an actual sentence (just for the record, yes, for sure, that would have definitely been the first time I got that question). As she was drying my hair, she asked me what I wanted. I said, "Just, like...a trim." She said that wasn't all that special. I told her that I mostly came here for the dogs. She acted mildly offended.

Then, when she's cutting my hair, we make small talk. This was the easiest time I've had with small talk with a person cutting my hair. Usually, I'm the worst. Also, the old lady who used to cut my hair had a really thick accent from somewhere east of India.

We talk about dogs, her old job and my new job. I mention how I'm finally a yuppie in Irvine again after a few months of traveling. I explain where I've been (a summer in Seattle, a month in Austin, a weekend in Mexico...), and then she cuts me short seeming mildly concerned that I went to Mexico.

"Where were you?" she asks.

"In a small town between Rosarito and Ensenada," I tell her.

"Was it dangerous down there?"

"No, not really. I guess there were cartel problems for a while, but-"

"What about Swine Flu?"

"Oh...well, the cartel was using the Swine Flu instead of guns for a while..."



"It was nuts for a while. Everyone here was going crazy about Swine Flu for a while. It seemed like everyone was getting their shots here."

"At the salon?"

" the United States."

"Oh...I thought this was like a super gnarly full-service salon for a second."

Anyway, most of the conversation went like that. At some point, she asked how I wanted to do the back of my head.

"Do you want me to take off more back there?"

"Yeah, I like that."

"Or I could just do the sides."


"You don't even care."

"I'm sorry! I swear, I just came here for the dogs! I thought I was going to give one of them a haircut! I totally didn't understand what this whole thing was about, but I swear you're doing a good job. I don't know shit about haircuts. Whatever you think will look good will probably look way better than me buzzing my head."

Later, she's blowing drying my hair and putting product.

"This is exciting," I said. "I haven't had wax in my hair since high school. Also, this whole blow-drying thing and getting my head rubbed deal is fantastic. Now I know why dogs love this. I'm going to start doing this at home."

"Yeah, you can come in next for just a blow-dry," she says sassily. "I'm glad I taught you something special about hair care, blow-drying."

"I was just trying to be nice! Seriously, I haven't gotten a professional haircut in forever and I seriously think you're doing a great job. I might even come back in when I decide to dye my hair purple and turn it into a faux-hawk."

"You're not doing to do that."

"Ok, no, I'm probably not, but I'll tell my friends to come in. Deal?"


Little did I know that she sliced my ear. This will play a big role in the next story.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snack Pack For War

SETTING: The Kilroy Household. It is lazy Sunday in the late afternoon. The sun is setting outside. We see a young man (the brother, Matthew) making a snack pack in the kitchen, as a young woman (the sister, Caitlin) sits across a dining room table where she is working on some kind of art project.

"What are you doing? We're going to eat dinner soon." - sister

"Oh, I know. This is just for war." - brother

"What? War? What are you talking about?" - sister

"I'm making a snack pack for war. I'll probably get hungry while I'm out there." - brother

"War...? Oh my freakin' god, is this for Call of Duty? Are you seriously making a snack pack for Call of Duty?!" - sister

"Yes. Yes, I am. I need to be prepared." - brother

"You are an idiot!" - sister

"You know, it's people like me who protect your right to say that." - brother

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Urinal? No, You're A Null!

I have come to acknowledge that there are few events as trivial yet surprisingly uncomfortable as two male co-workers (who know each other enough to nod but not converse more than exchange greetings in the hallway) peeing next to each other in total silence.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hot Chicks Have Places To Be, People

I was playing basketball Friday night and, for some reason, I thought about the many times I would play evening games with friends years ago.

When my friends and I would play basketball at night, girlfriends would show up. And it wouldn't really just be girlfriends there, but the semi-girlfriends, the friends with benefits and those girls that we would never really explain what was happening because we never wanted to seem shallow to each other, though we absolutely knew how shallow we/people could be.

“So…are you two together, dating, just hooking up or what?”

“Hey, do you ask what every ingredient is in your favorite dishes at restaurants? Or do you just chow down and worry about it later?”

“What the fuck, man…? What the hell is wrong with you? What kind of analogy is that?”

“Look, I just know what tastes good and what doesn’t. Right now, it’s delicious. I’ll figure out the price and recipe later.”

“What the shit are you talking about? Are you hungry or retarded? I really can’t tell at this point.”

Anyway, when the girls would show up, I slowly noticed that the hotter ones were always the ones holding their car keys. Even if they sat down for the entire night, they would have their car keys in hand, as if they could leave at any second. I don’t know what kind of trickery it was, but it could symbolize a number of things: “You barely have me,” “You’re lucky I’m here as I have other places to be but I chose to be here,” or, “Hey! I have a car!”

But I would see them and wonder if they were actually staying or if this was some devious, suspicious and inane ploy. They would be blondes with party girl ponytails from the swim team or cheerleaders in hoodies. They were comfortable with how they appeared, not exactly decorated like they usually were at school. So it seemed like they were extraordinarily relaxed with the situation, but there would be the small, quiet stress in their palms.

If they came here, why did it seem like they were always leaving?

Over time, the car keys in hand became a symbol of how much maintenance the girl required, which as a teenager, was sometimes matched or intertwined with how attractive the girl was. Whether it was on purpose or not, the whole car key thing intrigued me. They made the effort to come to the game, but they also came in pajama bottoms with car keys in hand. I suppose as adolescent males with boners every few seconds, we were supposed to think things like, “My god, she could leave at any second! I better say something cool during the next water break!”

I don’t know if this has carried over to my deranged stint as a twenty-something. It very well could have. I don’t know, because we all don’t have the free time we had then. So a girlfriend might not come to any games. Instead, she might work overtime until her boyfriend comes over. Who knows? Also, I exercise so infrequently, I can only concentrate on my own fractured breathing pattern instead of any girl on the sideline.

You know, that's probably why. It's because we were in better shape when we were teenagers. Now, if a girl came to see us play basketball, we'd probably shun ourselves like vampires in daylight, screaming, "Don't look at me!"

But it used to be, "Hey, you should drop by tonight and watch me do a dozen backflips when I dunk the ball, all while flexing my stomach and popping a couple boners all at once."


Maybe next time I see a girl there for one of the guys with car keys in her hand, I’ll senselessly yell, “Where the fuck do you have to be? Nowhere. Or you wouldn’t be here. Just put the car keys away and stop fucking with our heads. We don’t get boners every few seconds anymore, so we’ve evolved. Kind of. We know you just want us to talk to you and throw down game, but the only game happening is this one and the score is totally fucked right now.”

It would be totally bad-ass, unless of course I was the one dating her, in which case, I would probably say something closer to: “Hey, you look really pretty tonight. I don't usually play that bad. Usually, I have a six pack. So, what are you doing afterwards? Do you want to do something or do you have somewhere to be?”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Are You Dating Me?

There's a certain phrase that some people use around this office and it strikes me as peculiar every time.

"Are you dating me?"

This, of course, is used when one person makes another person feel old.

An example:

"Oh, I don't know if you would remember that toy craze. That may have been after you were a kid."

"Execuse me, are you dating me?"

And then the two laugh.

Now, this of course means "dating" in something far away from that whole familiar but always semi-unfamiliar process of kindness, generosity, awkwardness, furious anger and fondling.

Actually, the latter variation of "dating" is way more complex. At least the former version can be explained by science.

It took me a while to legitimately understand what people were talking about around here, because, for so long, I didn't hear the first part. I would only hear the person say, "Are you dating me?"

Every time I'd hear it, my head would crook and I would wonder what the hell was happening around this orgy of an office.

"Everyone is sort of dating everyone here or is at least unsure of what they're doing with each other, similar to a Ross and Rachel kind of sexual experiment, I suppose," I would think (very much like a scientist of only the most interstellar magnitude). "Also, they pose the question like a crazy person."

It wasn't the much more traditional and uncomfortable sentiment, "So...are we, like, dating or what?"

That question seems more familiar to me.

However, I often ask it differently. It usually comes out like, " you really all of a sudden have feelings for me? Are you seriously going to ruin this perfect setup we have? Oh man...does this mean that we can't just watch romantic movies, cook dinner together and fool around all the time? Does this mean we can't just go on weekend getaways, laugh a bunch and never discuss our feelings? Do I have to start meeting your stupid friends? Are they going to talk about people from your high school that I don't know? Are they going to mention your ex-boyfriends all the time just to hint to me that I should treat you right and not be a douchebag like your exes? Do I have to pretend like I don't know they're doing that? Do I have to go to your holidays? Do I have to figure out if I need to buy your family stuff just in case they give me presents? Does this mean I can't do any of this with other women? UGH. WHY ARE YOU BEING SO DIFFICULT? I DON'T NEED THIS! SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS!"

Then I would smash the nearest breakable thing of hers and jump out the window, screaming, "FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOM!"

Also, I would perfectly time the jump so that I landed on a bus (obviously). Then I'd stay on the bus until it took me near my car, which, as you and the girl may not already know, is not at the girl's apartment, because fuck being followed. I know women. Can't trust 'em. Be a spy in every situation with a woman or be a fuckin' chump, I say.

Then, I'd get drunk and call the girl's hot friends and ask, "Are you dating me?" before laughing uncontrollably and hysterically. All phone calls would probably end abruptly.

So, anyway, you can only imagine how put off I am when everyone around the office keeps asking, "Are you dating me?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Best Postcard Author I've Ever Known

I got a postcard from The Jen yesterday.

She remains the best postcard author I've ever known. I've saved everything she's ever sent me by way of a postal service. Even after two and a half years of being on rocky terms, she continues to impress me and fill my heart with warmth whenever I get mail from her. I'm glad we're finally on speaking terms again.

Apparently, she's in Australia these days, as the front of the postcard is an artistic (and colorful) rendition of Darling Harbor and, on the back, there's Bernard O'Dowd's poem "Australia."

From The Jen:

November 13, 2009 - On the road: Brisbane -> Melbourne

This country (continent? commonwealth? cangaroo?) looks like California, smells like Hawaii and tastes like England (albeit the passion fruit). It sounds like a squinty-eyed drunk. It feels…it feels like nothing else I’ve ever encountered. So, I’ll let this nice chap to the rest. Hit it, Bernie!

[little dance step arrow doodles go on until they point to the name Bernard O’Dowd and the last line of his poem, which is “ocean at your knees”]

Bit of a show-off he is, eh?

Jake, I had a feeling I’d find you here.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Well Played, Panera

By adding gourmet mac 'n cheese to the menu and hiring increasingly attractive female employees, I feel like Panera has discovered an incredible marketing scheme that applies specifically

But, it has certainly worked, Panera! Well done! I will soon be turning over entire paychecks to your new, good-looking "femployees."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh No

Hark hear those ears until they bleed,
marked down by a character assassin.
Truly, let these words pour out of me,
like liquor out of bullet holes, and grin.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Don't Tell The Prizefighters"

"Don't Tell The Prizefighters"
written like a lackey in an office by jake kilroy.

Don't tell the prizefighters that I'm taking a dive,
something I hope goes swimmingly tonight
(though I'm already in sweat like a suit)
(cutting up my nerves like rope burning through)
'cause when they come, they come like machines;
they come like soldiers of misfortune,
loading their guns up with some noise so mean;
oh, they come with the worst sound in your heart
(as you hear the busted boombox pumping savage blood);
the parades come with the fury,
the laughs come with a growl,
and you can't turn your back on them
even if you think you can, somehow.

So I say, sure,
let 'em hype, let 'em jump,
give 'em life, give 'em some,
hear 'em call, hear 'em talk
give 'em hell, give 'em knocks,
get 'em up, get 'em down,
give 'em luck, give it now.
But don't tell the prizefighters 'bout me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm Gonna Fuck Your Shit Up, East Coast

There erupts a strange nostalgia in me when winter arrives at my parents' house. And then my mind wanders. And then my fingers dance. And then suddenly there's a profound love somewhere in the depths of me. It's not a love that you write home about, as it's not about anyone, but there's such a sensation of appreciation for the little nuances of the even tinier things. Cold weather here makes me think of colder weather elsewhere (oh, I'll always remember how my nose stung so wonderfully when I visited Chicago in late November).

And then, when I bundle up, I recall when I first wanted everything. I was 16. There came a knocking sound of jazz and a clammering for women that all seemed like a crowded ballroom. So many pretty dresses, so many wrinkled suits. I became a bastard that year, I assume. But, now, as in every winter hint, my head begins to match the conversation and I want the dive bars in Europe, the welcome home magic of the South and the renegade and seductive pull of New York City. In fact, I've always wanted that city by its lovely throat (especially when I became a bastard screwball romantic prizefighter). It only worsened years ago when I was collecting love letters from a girl at NYU. But, now, after great talk of seeing a skyline that I have only known in fiction and dreams, I want to spend my money on going the right amount of east. I want to finally read the poetry I started writing as a teenager (at least for just a week). And I find myself wanting to fondle the Atlantic. I want to press up against its beaches like the backseat of a car when with a girl you can't get out of your head or your hands.

I want the Eastern Seaboard running through my fingers like a lover's hair when you can't figure out if they're sleeping next to you in bed or you're dreaming oud loud while sweating out the drums of your heart in a frantic storm of laughter that is a very honest first impression (figuring out the only math that you ever want to know).

Look, I just want you to know that I'm reckless and I'm coming for you, East Coast.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pure Water! Holy Fuck!

There’s a water dispenser in my new job’s break room. They have red plastic cups for everyone to use, which automatically puts me in the mode to drink beer or some mixed liquor (after, of course, I diligently examine my beverage, making sure there aren’t any cigarette butts in there).

Anyway, when the water dispenses, it gleams, “Pure Water!” as if this is first miracle of this century.

And, for a slight, short, fleeting moment…I was totally giddy.

“What the fuck? Pure water…? Well, what the fuck have I been drinking all these years? This is awesome! Jake Kilroy's a chump no more,” I thought initially.

Of course, it actually means, “This water is pure and safe and clean and good to drink.”

But, for that one quick instance, I thought it was like a drug sell, something like, “This is pure cocaine, bro!” Or maybe like an extreme soft drink, something like, “This is pure adrenaline, bro!” Or even like that one scene in Better Off Dead when the best friend picks up all the snow and says, “This is 100% pure snow! Do you have any idea what the street value is of this mountain?”

Seriously though, for a second, it was like, “This is pure water, motherfucker! PURE. FUCKING. WATER. Don't you get it? This is fucking huge. This is expensive shit, dude. Don’t be a fuckin’ idiot. Drink this water! Why? Because this shit is pure. Have you ever even had pure water? You’re face is going to explode from grinning so hard, you dumbfuck lucky dick! Wooooooooooooooooooooo!”

It was pretty exciting.

My day was kind of boring after that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hey, I Have A Job Again, Why Not?

I have a job again. And, this time, I have an adult car. Ths time, I have adult shoes. This time, I have adult patience. This time, I have adult money.

And that's most important.

But I still live with my parents.

So bring on the prostitutes!


I mean "spending spree."

Bring on the spending spree.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fortune Cookie In Finances: A Quick Tale

About an hour ago, I was having a meeting with my father. I asked him to sit down and discuss finances with me, as I can hardly remember a time that I was closer to broke.

As I was explaining to him how helpless I feel and how doomed I may be, finally coming clean about how dire my situation is, I was gathering the three stacks of envelopes I had organized in a futile attempt to take control over my life once again.

I showed him the two letters from Farmer's letting me know that I missed my last car insurance payment.

I showed him the two letters from Aetna that said I hadn't been paying my health insurance provider.

I showed him the two letters from EDD that said I would not be receiving unemployment benefits.

Then, from one of the envelopes, fell a slip of paper from a fortune cookie. It read, "You have a reputation for being straightforward and honest."

And, if I remember correctly, the paper was from a meal when the other person I was with asked what my fortune was and I replied, "Don't bother. It isn't true."

Well, today, I suppose, was a good reminder that I can be wrong.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Twentysomething Something

Well, that was quite a night.

Nothing like falling asleep in jeans to remind you of your age, I suppose.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Secret Girlfriend

I'm very confused yet very turned on by Comedy Central's new show Secret Girlfriend. They seem to think that guys will watch anything with tits and ass...and lingerie...and bikinis...and underwear...and sexy lines...and sexy moves.

It's like they they think we're stupid.

Well, that does it. After 5 or 6 more episodes, I'm proably going to seriously reconsider watching this obnoxious and mildly filthy program.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I have returned home from Big Sur with no travel plans in the future. I'm broke, worried, inspired, (temporarily) sick, and very interested in love letters.

This is a weird place, at the very end of a long journey and at the very beginning of a new one. Goodbye/hello, strange patterns.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Big Sur

Well, I'm leaving again today. I just can't stay put. Instead, I'm gonna wreck himself at Big Sur this weekend like Jack Duluoz.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coming Home

I'm sitting in a Midwestern airport right now, quietly drinking and laughing softly. This is the end to the strangest trip of my life, and it's the only way it could end (with laughter).

The girlfriend and I broke up, and it feels like it's for the best right now. Ah, to be single again (reckless and contemplative), wondering what the autumn season will bring besides a few new colors. And to be in California again for a fall season that will probably never make sense, only to transition into a winter that makes even less sense.

I can't stop looking around and seeing all of the music artwork and thinking this entire place smells like BBQ. And it just seems like I've been living in a Salvador Dali painting for too long and now I've got my five senses back like a good poker hand.

This is me laughing alone in an airport restaurant, having a really, really good time. This is me chuckling as the end credits roll to the movie, with the audience wondering what happened to that character who was coming home.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Body Aches With Age (And Alcohol)

The best way to remember that you are no longer a teenager is to drink like one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Taco Bell

1:30 p.m.
Jake sits in a coffee shop that he thinks smells like Taco Bell.

2:30 p.m.
Jake boards a bus to head back to his girlfriend's apartment.

2:40 p.m.
Jake decides that if he sees a Taco Bell in the distance, he's bailing on the bus.

2:55 p.m.
After a stop, Jake sees a Taco Bell, passes by it, and then exits the bus two stops later because he couldn't make up his mind.

3:00 p.m.
Jake finally reaches the Taco Bell and spends $7, restraining himself from spending $20.

3:15 p.m.
Jake exits the Taco Bell only to see the bus he needs drive by. Jake chases the bus, but totally fails, as he also has his laptop bag. Jake looks like loser fat kid chasing after bus with a big black bag and a bag almost the same size filled with Taco Bell.

3:25 p.m
Jake makes it to the closer bus stop, contemplating life and its temptations.

3:30 p.m.
Jake decides to eat some nachos at bus stop, but realizes that he didn't grab any hot sauce.

3:40 p.m.
Jake reaches the Taco Bell again and grabs hot sauce.

3:50 p.m.
Jake reaches the bus stop again, but two teenagers have taken over the bench. He stands and sweats like a vulture in the heat.

4:00 p.m.
Jake boards another bus.

4:05 p.m.
Bus is boarded by an pack of kids. Bus gets really loud and crowded.

4:15 p.m.
Jake sees that his stop is coming up, pulls the cord. Bus driver is too busy talking and laughing that she misses Jake's stop. Jake stands up. Bus driver notices him and lets him off at some random intersection.

4:30 p.m.
Jake finally reaches his girlfriend's apartment.

5:00 p.m.
Jake finishes the last of his Taco Bell.

6:00 p.m.
Jake's stomach hurts. Jake fucking hates Taco Bell. It's always like this, Jake thinks.

10:00 p.m.
Jake wishes Taco Bell delivered.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Think My Friend May Be Invovled In A Pyramid Scheme

I think my friend may be involved in a pyramid scheme and I'm having a moral crisis.

Do I warn or exploit them?

Life never has easy answers.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Life Goal Book List

Today, I spent my evening coming up with a gnarly-long list of novels I'd like to read in the next few years. I've read five novels in the last three weeks, so maybe I can actually do this.

Also, I'm adding a special section called the Life Goal Book List, which are long or dense (or both) books of older wit that I want to read in the next century or before I die (yes, I plan on living past the unreal age of 124, seeing as how my last plan of being dead by this age didn't exactly pan out).

Anyway, here is the Life Goal Book List so far:
Cervantes - Don Quixote (1615)
James Joyce - Ulysses (1922)
Herman Melville - Moby Dick (1851)
Margaret Mitchell - Gone With The Wind (1936)
Thomas Pynchon - V. (1963)
Thomas Pynchon - Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
Thomas Pynchon - Against The Day (2006)
Ayn Rand - The Fountainhead (1943)
Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged (1957)
John Steinback - East Of Eden (1952)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Candy, Bubble Bath & Stan Getz's Saxophone: The Story Of A Short Trip To The Grocery Store

I walked to the grocery store tonight, where I believe I looked like a total crazy person, as I tried to find good bubble bath for, like, 20 fucking minutes. I'd pace the aisle and then wander around the store, looking for other things, pick up nothing and then return to the shampoos and conditioners. But all I could find was Mr. goddamn Bubble.

And I could tell people who were looking at milk and condoms near the shampoo and conditioner aisle were wondering just what the hell I was up to, as if I was discovering spiritual meaning in bath bottles.

Anyway, I just bought the damn Mr. Bubble along with some candy, all while I was wearing big headphones around my neck.

But at least, on the way home, I had Stan Getz's live saxophone to tell me, "Yo, fuck those people, Jake. Eat that candy, take a bubble bath if you want, and fuck some shit up, bro."

And I thought, "You know what? You're right, Stan Getz's saxophone. Your lulling summer brass tones speak to me when I doubt even civilization. Shit, I'm gonna build a time machine just to fuck you while Stan ain't looking."


Ok, ok, ok, I admit that last part did sound kind of crazy.

"New Ribbons"

"New Ribbons"
written in the dark while up late far away by jake kilroy.

New ribbons, new skylines,
new seasons, new tanlines,
knew everything before I had mind.

And even if the weather is crisp
and you're sleepy from an afternoon fix,
there waits a wild pulse
between a girl and her ghosts,
as her boy lets dreams drift
and drinks his sly kiss,
never whispering new words,
only moving to hear purrs,
naked and humming his lessons learned,
while showering after a midnight burn.

There remains an exhaustion that never lets you go to sleep.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Goodbye, Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 57, after battling it strongly for some time. He had told Barbara Walters in an interview sometime ago that he jokingly admitted that he wanted the media to report that he was just “kicking it.”

And that’s the sort of nice-guy-shrug-off-bad-shit-just-digging-it guy that Patrick Swayze always seemed to be.

Now, it’s always a peculiar situation to incessantly root for someone you”ve never met, had contact with or even remotely know personally. With politicians, it’s different, as they come to be represent you and can affect your existence in society.

But, somehow, for some reason, there came to be a great appreciation for Patrick Swayze and his films’ characters (which were all assumed to be Swayze himself) in my old house. It would make more sense to explain that I lived with three other men in their early twenties and our house served as something along the lines of a city’s meeting all for lowlifes and laughers.

Roughly a year ago (weird), my brother (one of my former roommates) and his friend began talking about Swayze’s small town epic Road House. My brother had never seen it and the friend couldn’t figure it out, as if my brother was unqualified to be a man (imagine someone getting into a respectable university without taking the SATs). So he demanded that they watch it at our house.

Severeal other friends of my brother joined in, including another roommate. That night, I came home late and saw a handful of young men staring at the wall (we had a projector against the wall instead of an actual television) as if it were 1927 and they were watching a bootleg copy of The Jazz Singer. Their eyes were glazed in wonderment.

My brother was the only one who took his eyes off the screen. He looked over at me and said, “Have you seen this fucking movie, man? It’s unbelievable!” I shook my head. I had never seen Road House and I could notice my brother’s friend shaking his head in disbelief, as if our parents had raised us all on candy and racism and not vegetables and manners. It seemed like my brother and I were both spectacularly unqualified to be men. Later, I realized that it had also impaired my sister’s ability to be a woman who could appreciate good men. Our parents failed the three of us in some diluted form.

I retired to my bedroom and read, listening to them cheer and clap for whatever was happening on screen. It could’ve been the world series from the sound of it. But the next day, my brother and kept talking about Road House and the other roommate decided to start hosting something called Swayze Night every Thursday.

They decided to start off with a movie that everyone knew: Point Break.

“Ok, Point Break is rad. I’m in,” I said. Patrick Swayze always seemed like a cool guy and he had a filmography exciting enough to appreciate weekly. The two of them invited everyone from their work and there ended up being 15 or so people in our living room, sitting in every piece of furniture we had, dragged everywhere from the garage and the patio.

Watching Point Break, I realized that I had always appreciated Johnny Utah’s poorly written, decently delivered lines. But I never valued Bodhi’s shaggy but serious approach to surf and bank robberies. In the process of the movie, Bodhi became less Bodhi and more Patrick Swayze, and, by the end of the film (storm of the century), it was like we were cheering on Swayze to slay the turbulent ocean.

After Point Break, we began dressing up for the movies every Thursday.

We dressed in flannel for Black Dog (and were nervous for Swayze to help the FBI while trying to save his own life, wife, kid, friend and house).

We dressed in camouflage or as Communists for Red Dawn (and witnessed Swayze’s bravery and strength as a leader in the most impossible of fights).

We dressed as greasers for The Outsiders (and listened to Swayze’s tense but careful wisdom).

We dressed as dancers and camp counselors for Dirty Dancing (and couldn’t help but laugh alongside Swayze for not putting up with anyone’s shit).

We dressed as our own interpretation of ghosts for Ghost (and tried to help Swayze solve his own murder, even though Swayze never needs help).

We even dressed in drag, with men as women and women as men, for To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything… (and couldn’t wait for the more feminine Swayze to still wreck hell on those who abuse their loved ones).

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We even rewatched Road House, just so we could dress up like bouncers and anticipate the glory that is every goddamn minute of that movie.

However, during these movies, we grew to adore the man who was poetry and justified violence in one awesome package. It’s not like he was ever looking to hurt anyone. But we came to agree that, sometimes, “any means necessary” certainly applied, and we cheered him on when we rocked the shit out of life.

And, furthermore, we all just collectively came to…just adore Swayze like he was our favorite uncle. And there grew to be a good number of us (sometimes 30 or so people all squished in our living room) all joking and yelling (at acceptable parts: explosions, sex, good one-liners, you know that stuff that dreams are, like, made of).

I remember when we rewatched Road House, we had to pause the movie so that we could high-five each other for a solid five minutes or so. I mean, the part is/was glorious. Swayze ripped out that goon’s throat (any fucking means necessary, ok?) and dragged him across the river, screaming the villain’s name (Wesley) in such anger, anguish and reasonable uncertainity. He didn’t feel good about it, and you could tell that it hurt him inside, but sometimes, as a hero or legend, there’s no time for a breather. And, even in those considerably outrageous moments, you were sure that Patrick Swayze had so immersed himself in his films that you and Swayze could probably have a conversation about the scene like it had really happened to poor ol’ Swayz (that’s not a typo, that’s his beautiful nickname).

Some film roles were laughable, sure, but they were played with such a good guy smile and shrug that it was hard to even notice the silliness of the film. Instead, you just wanted Swayze’s character (who, again, you mostly just assumed to actually be Patrick Swayze himself) to win. You just wanted him to beat the bad guys, get the girl and help the helpless.

And, everyone, I hope/think, deep down, feels this way, even if they were never at a Swayze Night (as others exist around in these United States). Somehow, and you don’t know when it started exactly, but you just found yourself there for Swayze, no matter the situation’s inanity or oddball “serious” threat.

You start taking the awful circumstances of Swayze’s characters’ life and begin interjecting with realistic problems and handing the movie symbolism it probably never intended. Swayze’s movies begin to represent more than action and comedy, but politics, religion, sexuality, et cetera. And Swayze all brings it about by a tender sincerity.

I mean, in Black Dog, his house was going to be repossessed and he had just gotten out of jail for vehicular manslaughter (because he fell asleep at the wheel, after working too hard and growing tired). But then he agrees to drive a truck again after losing his commercial driver’s license, though he’s wrekced with guilt for the accidental death he was responsible for, and it’s just a load of bathroom fixtures anyway, and he’s just trying to be a solid guy and get through life, you know? Fuck. But then it turns out that the truck is filled with illegal guns. And it was just like, “Fuck, man, why can’t everyone just leave Swayze the fuck alone? He just wants to do this drive to keep a roof over the heads of his wife and kid! Jesus. Just let him live.”

And this sort of whole-hearted cheering for Swayze is what led to Swayze Nights in the first place. Well, actually, it was Road House. And even while watching that movie, it’s just like, “Jesus, the guy just wants everything to be resolved with peace! Why is everyone being such a dick to Swayze? Fuck, I mean, he has a philosophy degree from NYU! He’s just trying to set an example and everyone’s being such a fucking asshole to him.”

Or in The Outsiders, it was “Ok, yeah, he shouldn’t have hit Ponyboy, sure, but Ponyboy’s doesn’t understand what Swayze is in charge of. He has to look out for his younger brothers and gang members. He’s probably old enough to get out of it, but he just wants to help everyone and keep anyone from getting killed. And, damn, he fucking cried when he realized that Ponyboy was alive. Jesus, he has so much on his plate. Fuck, just cut him some slack.”

And so on, and so on, and so on. Yeah, sure, this could be considered goofy or silly, but it seems to feel the most comfortable way to talk about Patrick Swayze, like an underappreciated hero that has endured the most inane and wild situations this world or another world has to offer.

With that giddy but mock-overserious-tone constantly pushing you to believe more, Patrick Swayze’s films became more about Patrick Swayze than the actual films. We would refer to the movies almost like documentaries or remembering when an old friend of ours did something awesome. He was just…something to anticipate and look forward to, and something to find truth in. I mean, even when he was acting, he was still…Swayze. And I don’t account that for his acting, or inability to escape himself into a role. I just think that, any role written for Swayze, ultimately becomes Swayze, as that’s what everyone wants. It’s not that Swayze can’t escape himself. It’s just…well, why the fuck would he? Every fictional character becomes Swayze because Swayze is better than any fictional character. It’s not like he tries and doesn’t succeed. No, Swayze always succeeds at being Swayze.

God, this is hard to explain. Look, the thing is…Swayze is the ultimate character and he always has his inescapable qualities, and that’s what a good character is. Swayze in real life is the best fictional character, drawn up by a collection of gods to tell story after story, blurring the lines of reality and non-reality. And, somewhere in between these magnificent lines, Patrick Swayze became the single greatest Patrick Swayze that Patrick Swayze could be as Patrick Swayze.

In his quiet humility, or his generous heroism, Patrick Swayze saved us regularly from the non-Swayzes of this world, bravely anticipating the coming doom that is known and made available to the real world and the fictional worlds created in order for Patrick Swayze to explain the positive messages he had always held dear by way of hypothetical situations. He came here a boy, became the manliest of men, turned into an actor, and, somehow, evolved into a beloved legend of dreamlike proportions and has now left as something that can’t be put into words.

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yeah right, voodoo!

Ok, I finished the book. Fuck voodoo. That shit kills everything.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Ok, I'm a total sucker for mystery thrillers from Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. I'm reading their newest book Cemetary Dance, which features one of my all-time favorite characters, Aloysius X. L. Pendergast. Their books are usually based around some weird history or mythology, and this one's about southern voodoo.

And, seriously, I think I might start looking into voodoo, just out of general curiosity. But that's how it always starts, isn't it?

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Random Night In Austin

Last night, Sam had soccer practice, so she dropped me off in "SOCO" (I feel like every big city has a SOCO somewhere). On the first Thursday of every month, there's a carnival...thing on South Congress. I can't quite describe it. But she dropped me off and there were plenty of people, so whatever it was, it was happening.

- I thought that I would start the evening off with a drink. But, very soon, I realized that I had left my wallet in my shorts. I had decided to wear rolled up long sleeves and jeans for the first time in a week, and it seemed that I am quite forgetful when I am slightly more formal. And I only had a couple bucks in the pockets of my jeans. I sighed aloud and mumbled rather slowly, “Goddamnit.” This evening was off to a very off-start.

- Slightly defeated but still quite curious, I walked (with my laptop bag) by some food stands that were run out of airstreams. And one of them, I think, was selling goats as pets (or food for Tyrannosaurus Rexes). It was like a little gypsy camp. There were tiny lights and paper lanterns. Some had Christmas lights around the tent in front of the airstreams. And there are just people everywhere as the sun is setting soon.

- Giving up on the gypsy camp, I watched a band of older men playing classics from the Sixties in an open dirt bar. No roof. Just tables and a cement patio for a stage. It looked like a small ranch. The older men playing music were surrounded and cheered on my drunk college students. It was an interesting mix, almost something that makes you stoked on age-gap interaction. There were colorful paper lanterns and lots of southwestern plants. I was going to sit in there, but then I thought, “And do what? Talk to who? And buy beer with what money?” So, after having this intense argument with myself, I just stood there on the sidewalk and listened.

- Then I meandered through a boutique. Lots of gimmicky things. Lots of wonderful art. You know the mixture, where you can’t tell which category is for which booth. Necklaces with real bugs. Art made from aluminum cans. Stamped t-shirts. Earrings made from guitar picks. Et cetera.

- Upon leaving the small boutique, I heard a kid say, “Mom, the zombies are coming. They’re getting closer.” I smile, and then think, “Good Lord, this kid’s fucked up.” I think that until actual zombies (or locals dressed up as zombies and yelling at other locals) and the army of the undead walk by the boutique. Wanting to avoid any of the harassment I’ve witnessed at Knott’s Scary Farm, I turn back to the boutique and ask a series of inane questions regarding the guitar pick earrings. “Really? No kidding. Picks have never been used. Huh,” I say as if I’m going to buy the Mick Jagger guitar pick earrings. The zombies past and I move on.

- Looking for a coffee shop where I can work on fiction, I realized that every place will be jam-packed. And I haven’t enough money to eat at any of the restaurants. So I keep walking, seeming like the only person walking the way I am, as everyone walks towards me. The sun is setting and the shops and booths are lighting up. It suddenly looks like small town Texas. I instantly have the urge to be Jeff Bridges in The Last Picture Show. This awkward notion of time travel and fiction as reality lasts the rest of the night, and I feel myself revisiting the mysticism I felt the day before. It’s so strange, I can’t explain it. It actually makes me slightly suspicious of everything and everyone. I become delightfully paranoid.

- There’s an old soda fountain shop that I duck into. I wander through several times, deciding what I can afford. There’s candy I’ve never seen before and gourmet chocolate in the window. I am now upset myself for forgetting my wallet. Sometimes, even though I have the capability to be the loudest person in a room, I can appear to be the shiest guy to strangers. I (very) quietly ask if I can have some popcorn, as if I’m some small-town preacher’s son who has left home and is sinning for the first time. I buy some sour candy too and ask for a water (all in the lowest audible tone I have in me). This girl (who is younger than I am), with her country twang hidden in her voice, talks to me like she thinks I’m afraid of the city. I take my candy and just stand there waiting for my popcorn, watching the girl who waited on me talk to another female employee about local boys. Finally, she points to me and says, “And then…he wanted something. I forget. I’m sorry, honey, what’d you want?” Very quietly, I responded, “That’s ok. Popcorn.” Then the girl calls herself a bunch of funny names while laughing, as the guy there gives me a water and tells me to enjoy my “time.”

- Now, walking around, it is night. The weather is still warm, but the stars are out. This all seems like something out of a movie from the ‘50s. There’s no yelling, just plenty of people with plenty of reasonable conversations. A man plays violin on the street. I cross the street to the other side where there are some old brick buildings and a larger gypsy-looking camp, as I start walking back towards the city. The gypsy-looking camp, of course, is not a real camp of gypsies. It’s just a few airstreams and booths again, serving everything from burritos to snow cones. I sit on the curb of the gypsy camp and eat my popcorn and drink my water (keeping my candy for later), as everyone passes me within inches. I people-watch and hear fragments of conversation.

- Quietly sitting, eating and thinking, I am finally addressed by a well-dressed man who hands me a small, thin pamphlet.

“You looking for salvation?” he asks. I’ve been approached by plenty of religious advocates but this seems the strangest. I was already in a weird mood and observing everything in some emaciated cinematic quality.

“Nope,” I tell him, which is true (I’m not).

“You know where you’re going when you die?”

“I have a general idea.”

“Is that something that interests you?”

To which, I shrug, still eating my popcorn. I probably look like a simpleton. I’m only eating a small bag of popcorn and drinking water, while everyone around me (smart enough to come with wallets and purses) is stuffing their faces with beer and burritos. The well-dressed man hands me a pamphlet.

“You going to read that?” he asks, pointing to what he just gave me. I want to be honest, so I skim the thing and ultimately space out, forgetting he’s there. Finally, I make a decision.

“You’re better off giving this to somebody else,” I say, still looking up at him.

“But I want to give it to you. I want you to read it,” he tells me.

“You sure?” I say, with this weird suspicion, as if he’s giving me something personal, like it’s the only copy he’s ever had to pass out and he chose me. Of course he has a whole handful in his pocket (probably next to his wallet.

“Yeah,” he says definitely. “I’m sure.”

And then he walks away. The whole thing seems weird. He’s the first person to acknowledge me after sitting there for fifteen minutes (of course, he’s the only one who has motivation, but it was still odd).

- Then, the next person who walks by me, actually says something to me. It’s as if having this pamphlet for salvation lets everyone know that I’m a decent person, not a preacher’s son looking to stray. It’s an older woman with a dog who asks, “Is that kettle corn?” I shake my head, “No. It’s just regular corn.” She laughs and walks away. I suddenly feel uncomfortable with my spot, so I leave, listening to the religious singers clash with the percussion gang (both are on the move, winding through the crowds on either side of the street).

- Walking along the street, I hear the zombies once again (one of them now has a chainsaw). They're now all on the roof of a bar hyping up Halloween hijinks in October or something. People from the sidewalk are yelling at the zombies on the roof and the zombies are screaming back. It's all playful, but it's still bizarre. I just keep walking between the two factions.

- I watch some capoeira dance-fighters. It’s beautiful and threatening. There are numerous musicians and other dance-fighters cheering them on along with the random bystanders of the street carnival. It’s such a majestic display, but it’s in front of a sewing machine repair store, so it’s tainted with the mundane. I stand there like an idiot with my laptop bag, popcorn, water and salvation pamphlet.

- Finally, I decide that it’s time to get some work done. I walk towards the bridge for the other side (where there are much less crowded coffee shops). But the capitol is at the end of the street in the distance. It’s warm and I just want to get there to sit down. It’s total night now and the percussion gang is behind me. There is no one between me and the moving drummers. It felt like I was marching to burn the capitol and this was an army behind me.

- They stay with the carnival and I keep going. It’s quite a walk. I am handed two or three more pamphlets of salvation. Far away from the carnival, and now the only person walking in this direction, people periodically approach and pass me. A man stops me and I automatically assume he wants to save me as well. “Excuse me,” the mans asks in a Eastern European accent, “do you know of any shops that are open late?” I’m relieved. “Actually, I’m just visiting,” I tell him. At this point, I feel like he could give me a cryptic response, like, “Aren’t we all?” and that would’ve made just as much as sense to me as anything else. Instead, he just nods, smiles and moves on.

- I make it across the bridge where the bats come out at night and watch the peaceful lake move like a quiet river. I cannot see the moon behind the clouds and a man on a bicycle wearing a peculiar lit-up jacket passes by me. Once across the bridge, the carnival far behind me, there is a massive gust of wind. It’s so powerful that signs are knocked over. It’s intensely random. I look up and see that the moon is bright yellow and the clouds have parted. This city is a place of dark magic, I swear. I finally make it to the coffee shop (called The Hideout) and just sit down to read and write.

I don’t know what's happening in this city, but I'm having chaotic episodes of mysticism. I can’t describe it and it sounds either marvelous or stupid, but there’s something here, something weird and wild.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Random Day In Austin

Years ago, I once wrote...

If I could sustain a single uninterrupted precious thought, my mind would be one kid in a straw hat and jean shorts, swinging ina backyard hammock on a beautiful day, playing a ukulele, drinking lemonade and singing old folk songs, without plans for the afternoon.

And, today, I feel like I reached the closest I ever have to something like that, after Sam dropped me off in Downtown Austin.

- I went to an art museum featuring a Chuck Close exhibit (called "A Couple Ways Of Doing Something") and slowly wandered through there. I studied a book collection of Gregory Crewdson photographs called "Beneath The Roses" and read Bob Holman's witty but sometimes stupid poetry on the walls.

- Afer the museum, I moseyed through the downtown, with its southwestern architecture rivaling its random southern architecture. I wound up sitting in a coffee shop theater called The Hideout and worked on fiction.

- Filled with hot chocolate in the heat, I walked over to the busiest city bridge and, bored of the hot sidewalks, meandered down the stairs and steps to a short trail along the lake that the bridge passes over, listening to the noise of traffic disappear. I found a small dock among the lush green foilage on the lake (which looks like a river) and untied my shoes to put my feet in the water. After reading a few pages of James Joyce's A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, I realized it was Sam's copy that she had purchased in Ireland and I had better not ruin it. So I got directions from the hotel behind me and walked a good number of blocks in the heat to buy a copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea.

- The book store I ended up at was called Book People and it was amazing. It's the largest independent bookstore in Texas and it's decorated so radically. I asked for an application without even thinking. I was just so stoked. They didn't have The Old Man And The Sea, but I wanted something short and suitable for lounging around in the outdoors, thinking. So I purchased Milan Kundera's Identity. I finished his most famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, earlier this week and absolutely adored it. Also, Identity seems to fit some themes of this trip anyway. I also bought the seventh volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, because, well, it's just unbelievable, really.

- On my way back to the dock, I stopped at a southern-looking eatery called Opal Divine. I made my way up to the outdoor podium where a waiter in his late 50s was hanging out, just spacing out to his left. Imagine Sam Elliott as a hippie. All of his hair was gray and he had a bushy handlebar mustache and goatee as well as a lengthy ponytail.

“Hi, how are you?” I asked very politely and possibly too cheerfully.

“I don’t know,” he said, not even looking at me.

“Yeah, it’s hot out today, could fry your brain.”

“I hadn’t noticed. But it’s not that I’m not sure how I feel, it’s just that I’ve lost the ability to tell.”

“That’s a drag.”

“Yeah. So, what can I do you for?”

“I was wondering if there’s seating inside.”

“I don’t know.”


“Ok, tell you what, I’ll give you a seat inside for five dollars.”

“I only have a card,” I tell him in mock regret.

“Two dollars.”

“I only have a card.”

“Eighty cents.”

“I only have a card.”

“Well, you seem like a nice enough guy. I’ll just give it to you for free. Sit anywhere you want and I’ll find you.”

I sit in a corner booth. There’s a happy hour, so I order two dishes (Irish nachos and fried dill pickles), and I tell him that I’ll take whatever local drafts he suggests. Periodically, through the meal, he makes jokes and just weird observations, almost with a sage-like humor, at one point explaining how restaurant technology is screwing up his people skills. He asks how I’m doing from across the restaurant, over people’s conversations, yelling, “How’s that beer, buddy boy?” He was relentlessly entertaining, and I mean that with all seriousness. He may sound hokey, but he was just the most solid dude. If I hadn’t accidentally bumped into him, I’d think he was fictional. I read Identity throughout the meal and he said, “Oh, good, at least someone can read and drink simultaneously.” Fuck, I wanted this guy to build my house or marry my wife and I in the future. But then, all I could do was save my receipt (just to remember that Carl was real), give him a 40% tip and write on the comment card, “Carl has mastered the art of being a waiter, a trait and characteristic few waiters have. Somebody please promote the man to president.” And then I left.

- On my way back to the lake, I stopped into a pharmacy to buy some chocolate and licorice, along with some lemonade.

- I strolled back to the dock, untied my shoes and put my feet in the water, letting them dangle and float. I continued reading Kundera but was distracted by a nearby squirrel. The squirrel ran up to me and his eyes asked me if I had any food. So I fed him some licorice, which he grabbed and ran to the other side of the dock to eat alone. Then he came back and I gave him some more, and then he ran off. We did this two more times before I made a pile of licorice for him next to my shoes. When I tapped the dock to show him the pile, it seemed to scare him and he ran off for good. I tried feeding some to the birds, but birds are a bunch of assholes.

- I watched some turtles swim in front of me like a lazy show on a Sunday afternoon. Two of them seem like they’re playing hide-and-go-seek. I give the closest one some of my lemonade (sort of).

- There was a spider web under the dock. Two dragonflies got tangled up in it, so I used my bookmark to cut the sticky webs. I set the orange dragonfly on the dock and he flew away. The green one I almost lost to the water. It was very much like an action movie. I almost knocked my laptop bag into the lake as I cut all but one string of the web, so he dangled lower and lower, almost hitting the water, but then I got him to safety.

- There was a fire ant crawling on my leg. I tried to brush it off onto the dock, but it landed in the water. I tried to scoop it up, but I failed. I tried again, but I failed. And then I realized all of my failed attempts just made him float farther away. He was quickly out of reach. He withered in panic, and I sent him to that watery grave. I took my feet out of the water and just stared at the sky for a while, dealing with my guilt and grief.

- Finally, my candy and my lemonade gone, and the much of local wildlife disappearing, I continued to read. I was now just in my shorts, reading, letting the hours pass. My feet floated in the water and I watched the local rowing teams pass by me. I waved to a few.

- Sunset was approaching and I finally put my shirt on, as it wasn’t unbearable any longer. Others started to sit on the dock with me, waiting the bats to fly out from the bridge. I continued to read and lay with my head on my bag and feet in the water, with the turtles and now fish swimming around the rising tide. Soon, Sam joined me and we watched the bats fly out over the lake of Austin with everyone watching. It was like a plume of smoke twisting in the sky, perfectly moving and enticingly magical. It was something to watch, as simple and quiet as it was, like fireworks in silence. The sun was down and the sky was a color that you think can only exist at Disneyland. It was a very piercing and just...strange moment.

In fact, the entire day had this surreal daydream sort of prose to it, and I felt like I was spending a day the way I had wanted to long ago when I first wrote that note to myself. There were, of course, characteristics missing and replaced or changed, but the themes of solidarity and traquility were there in a sort of...enigmatic way.

Shrug. I don't know. In more basic terms, it was just fuckin' weird, man.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I can't think of anything so important to me anytime in my past when I was this perfectly 50/50 on it. If I keep it, half of me will be exuberant. If I lose it, half of me will extraordinarily relieved.

This is the weirdest trip of my life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Everyone Thinks I'm Suicidal When I Shave My Beard, Exercise And Eat Right

Typically, when someone observes their friend as having "let himself go," it's usually because they're eating crap food and not exercising, and maybe they've grown a beard. And the friends all think that the guy is depressed or just giving up or something.

However, everyone becomes concerned about me when I'm clean-shaven, eating right and exercising.

"Dude! Jake! You shaved your beard!"

"Yeah, I decided it was time to try a cleaner look."

"And it seems like you're in better shape."

"Well, I've been playing basketball and doing little exercises at home every day. Also, I haven't eaten fast food in two months and I'm trying to cut way back on junk food."

"Oh, ok. I see...Jake, I have to ask, is everything ok? Is something wrong?"

It's all very peculiar.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Am Not...Myself?

I have never felt less like myself than today. There's an intense ringing in my left ear from seeing a friend's band last night at the Doll Hut. What it does to your whole equilibrium is no joke. I just I went to a coffee shop to write and I was just typing conversations like I had a mild concussion. I didn't sleep much last night and I'm full from breakfast. Also, the whole uncomfortable shrug of a relationship right now isn't helping.

I'm just going to read and hope I wake up a decade.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Worst Conversation

"I don't think this is going very well," said the pessimist.

There was a long pause.

"Yeah, you're totally fucked," said the other one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Since I Have Returned To California...

Friday Night: Have pizza and soda with my family. Don't go to sleep until 4 a.m.

Saturday Night: Meet up with friends. Have potato tacos, rice, beans, chips and salsa, soda and beer before midnight, and then a bag of candy and cheese bread around 3 a.m. Stay awake until 8 a.m. when I have seven slices of pizza and another bag of candy. Fall asleep at 10 a.m.

Sunday Night: Meet up with friends. Have whiskey, beer, soda, a grilled cheese, soup, fries, chips and cheese dip and two seven and sevens. Don't go to sleep until 6 a.m.

Monday Night: Meet up with friends. Have pizza and beer. Come home and have the worst talk with my girlfriend ever. Sorta maybe kinda break up.

Tuesday: No appetite. Hang out at the library all day.

"Bleh," said the degenerate, once again at a crossroads.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Spanish Men Are Sexy Motherfuckers, But Motherfuckers Nonetheless

I just saw the following picture of Antonio Bandares on his Wikipedia page.

Apparently, this motherfucker is a singer too. Yes, Antonio Bandares can sing. Beautifully, I guess. For some reason, my immediate reaction was "Oh, fuck you, you son of a bitch. Acting wasn't good enough?"

And then my reaction was "Oh, well, of course he's a singer. He's from Spain."

And then came the gigantic realization that I think all attractive men from Spain can sing. I don't know when exactly I started thinking that, but I'm quite sure now that all beautiful Spanish men can sing wonderfully.

Fuck, they're probably great lovers too. I mean, right? I don't know. I just look at them and I'm almost positive that they could please my girlfriend better than I ever could even dream (even without her Spanish fetish).

I bet a 13-year-old Spanish boy could please a supermodel better with his first boner than a twentysomething white guy can on his best night. The most charming twentysomething American guy would still flail and flop like a fish out of water compared to a Spanish boy's first go at pussy.

I don't know if it's science, but as soon as Spanish boys hit puberty, I feel like they suddenly understand the female body better than I ever could hope. They would know about mythical things or things they made-up (which turn into magic realism), like, "the rear orgasm" or something.

For sure. A fuckin' kid from Spain and I would be hanging out drinking Sangria and some hot bitch would walk by and just tell me I was a loser because I was sitting next to this suave Spanish boy, who would be fascinated and obsessed with the first wiggle in his new ballsack. But she would still sit next to him and ask what he was doing later. Then, he'd ask to see her ass.

"Sure thing, anything for you, little man," the woman in the tight maroon dress would say.

"What the fuck is happening?" I would say, bewildered.

"Here, I show you," that fucking kid would whisper to me. And then, to my unending suprise, he would pull back the girl's buttcheeks and show me a clit right above her anus.

"What the hell? I didn't even know there was a second clit hidden there!" I would exclaim in the bar.

"Yes, yes, I know. I figured you wouldn't do you say...heard of it. But do not worry, my friend, I will help you," the smug son of a bitch would say.

The girl, pulling her dress back down to cover her gorgeous rump would turn to him and ask, "Can you sing?"

"But of course," he would say with a shrug. And then he'd sing a ballad while having sex with every hot girl in the bar. I'm sure of it.

And he would do it all with his first real dick.

God, I kinda fucking hate Spanish men now. What a bunch of sexy douchebags.

Monday, August 10, 2009

18,520 Words Into My Novel So Far

CHAPTER 01: 629 words
CHAPTER 02: 2,772 words
CHAPTER 03: 2,181 words
CHAPTER 04: 2,074 words
CHAPTER 05: 2,430 words
CHAPTER 06: 3,342 words
CHAPTER 07: 1,445 words
CHAPTER 08: 3,387 words
CHAPTER 09: 2,573 words
CHAPTER 10: in progress

Gay Clubs

I went to a gay club tonight.

It had a lot of colorful lights, colorful characters and colorful dancing. I was quite sweaty after an hour. I don't know if I impressed anyone, but damn, it was fun.

I still don't know what you want me to say.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lesbian Bars

I went to a lesbian bar tonight.

I don't know what else you want me to say.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Quiet Evening

Of quiet days and quiter nights, when a television sounds like a theater, a man can cook himself dinner. He can eat his meal sitting by the window, as the magnificent music of traffic and conversation from a few stories down float up and drift beyond his living room, like balloons pressing up against the glass, streaking and noisily dragging its hide. And that man can eat and laugh at the television, as he also hears a record player carrying the faint tunes of yesteryear and the foot taps of dancing on hardwood floors. And before he even makes it to dessert, he’s already thinking of the days when all he did was swim by the dock.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Grieving

A friend of mine overdosed and died last week.

He took a few too many anti-depressants, and I, for the life of me, can’t understand why. He was smarter than an accident and he was better than a suicide. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, and he had nothing resembling an ego. He maybe remains as the only peer I knew as a teenager that actually had “wisdom.” And the dude was pulling jive-talk back in fifth grade before I even understood basic grammar. He was always ready for a philosophical discussion, a prank or a joke. Forever bless his sneaky giggle and his audible “humph.”

I suppose he’s the first one of my friends to pass away, and goddamn, nobody ever guesses that it’s going to be the co-valedictorian that’s the first one to go from your high school. Especially when he rapped his speech at graduation. And while this could very easily turn into a rambling eulogy, I’m instead, in this instance at least, intrigued by the grieving process. My alma mater has lost three students this year. My brother lost his friend (Class of 2006) to a car accident, a friend recently told me about a girl I met on the school paper (Class of 2004) and now my recent friend last week (Class of 2003). There have also been a few passings at neighbor high schools in the last few years, where my friends have already attended funerals of their peers.

I’ve witnessed the grieving of friends for friends as well as family for family, and either way, by any measure or proxy, grieving is a rather chaotic but calm endurance race. There are the five stages, but I have no real knowledge of grieving’s clockworks. I know very little about grieving, though I’ve attended well over 15 funerals in my lifetime, I believe. How close I knew each of them, I’m unsure.

Grieving is an extremely bizarre natural disaster to me. It’s like walking through a hurricane in order to find the ocean. You just put yourself through this trembling sense of trouble, carving out memories and anxiously awaiting worse news, as you march your way to the source. You constantly feel that you should endure a great ordeal in order to sleep well again. You have to walk through the entire monsoon just to see daylight.

And what a person brings along as tools is never the same as the person next to them, even if it’s a relative. I’ve watched similar situations occur on both sides of my family. I went to my mom’s brother’s funeral in fifth or sixth grade and I attended my dad’s brother’s funeral in seventh or eighth grade, both passing from heart problems. I saw how each sibling cried or slouched and I observed my grandparents shake in the church pew. There is hardly any worse feeling than watching a parent bury their son or daughter.

When my grandfather passed away years later, my grandma was handed a great number of books. She didn’t read any of them. At least she didn’t at the time. Instead, she just stacked them on her glass table in her living room and said, “I know how to miss my husband. I don’t need a book to give me instructions.”

She gave a slight noise that was either grief or laughter and stepped into the kitchen. Meanwhile, I sat there nodding my head absently. Who knows what helps and what offends? My aunt once told me that she refused to speak to certain co-workers for years after they went out of their way to not acknowledge my grandfather’s death.

“People avoided me, they wouldn’t even say hello, because they were so uncomfortable with saying, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I’m sorry to hear about your father.’ And that’s all it takes. Just say one of those sentences and that’s it. That’s all there is to it,” she said.

And I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

When my grandfather passed away, I was just about to turn 19. It was the first death that hit home while I was able to really have an adult perspective on grieving. A day or two after my grandfather passed away, three friends came to pick me up and cruise around town. The first friend gave me a big hug on my front lawn and said he was sorry to hear the terrible news, and it was especially comforting because he had actually known my grandfather since grade school. Then there was two other friends, both of whom I had only known for less than a year (from the same mutual friends for the same amount of time): one guy and one girl. The guy came up to me in the street and gave me another huge hug and said that he was sorry to hear about my grandfather too, though he’d never had met him. The girl just sat in the car and waited for me to get in, and she never said a word. She looked at me knowingly and never said anything about it. She preferred to ignore everything instead of having to say one simple line.

It was hard not for me to dwell on her insensitivity. To sit in that car without air-conditioning on that warm May day, I could’ve screamed at her until my throat caved into my lungs. The two guys had clearly just given me sympathetic hugs and one or two sentences, and I felt like I had a support group. They did the right amount, they said the right things and I was thankful for them. But this third person in the car was just a burning loose knot in the safety net.

As we drove around, all I could think was, “You just had to say once sentence. That’s it.”

Now, I would’ve been fine, and I’ve never felt that I ever needed someone to help me get through grieving, but whenever a friend lets you know they’re there, you just have more to be thankful for while you’re growing bitter and resentful at the politics of death. You go from anger and bargaining to acceptance, and there suddenly seems to be some truth to the clockwork of grief.

But that was when I felt I had gathered some perspective on death, maybe a valuable lesson or something along the edges of understanding, maybe even structure. Years before that, however, I encountered death one year after another, and wasn’t ever sure what to make of my own unsettling stomach and heartache.

Just from the time I was 11 to until I was 14, I was counting funerals on two hands. Just in those three years. And I remembered what soothed me and what frustrated me, but even then, I was restless and impatient with people at that age.

“Your uncle’s in a better place now,” I heard on several occasions.

“Yeah?” I said, visibly annoyed. “Prove it.”

There was usually a skeptical silence.

I’m not a religious person and I only sit in churches for weddings and funerals. And it drove me mad to hear people using their spiritual beliefs to comfort me and my lack of spirit. Yes, I know that they were only trying to comfort, but they were doing it on their terms and with their methods. If a religious person comforts a person they know to be agnostic with religion, where lies the line between carelessness, desperation, selfishness or patronizing? Don’t tell me that the dearly departed rests in a better place if we’ve previously had conversations about how I don’t believe in the better or worse places.

What I most appreciated was when someone just acknowledged that they were sorry to hear the bad news. They didn’t need to be a grief counselor or an old sage. I never expected that.

And I still don’t anticipate one’s ability to be resilient in the wake of wakes. Hardly. A funeral is a cataclysmic event, almost a form of polite and endearing torture. Only actual grief counselors are trained, and I even find them patronizing.

Also, the notion of a person wanting to hear that another person has endured a situation similar, to me, is bogus and often self-indulgent. Paralleling deaths is different, and, I think, acceptable. But I suppose it’s the wording.

Good: “I remember when my grandfather passed away, I couldn’t stop crying.”

Bad: “I know exactly what you’re going through.”

When my grandfather passed away, I noticed that my most self-involved friends said, “I know exactly what you’re going through,” and we’d end up talking about everything that happened when their grandparent passed away a decade ago instead of mine two weeks prior. “I know exactly what you’re going through” almost reads as a segway instead of a smile.

No matter how comforting one thinks that statement is to say, I don’t consider it a grand gesture of comfort to hear it. For starters, it better be the same exact scenario. If your neighbor passed away from old age and mine passed away of cancer, you don’t get to say, “I know what you’re going through. My neighbor died last year.”

It almost comes across as, “I’ve done this before and have tips for you if you need them,” and not as a pat on the back, like you might think it’d be. Though I admit it’s maybe harsh to be annoyed with someone who is just trying to be helpful and there for you, but really, at a time when I feel I’m at my most desperate, the last thing I want is to hear someone tell me they know exactly how I’m feeling or that my friend or family is in a better place. One thing that someone rarely does, and I include myself in this forgetful list, is to just ask about the friend or family member that recently passed and just listen to funny stories.

For me, I feel like grieving is a solitary process. I want to have others ready to help me if I lose my nerve, but I have close people in my life that don’t want to be alone when bereaving. They need the comfort of others or they need help going through the traditional five stages of grief.

My five stages seem to be yelling, drinking, remembering, laughing and then acceptance. And I don’t really have a problem if someone joins me for the ride….just as long as they say the right words.

R.I.P. Long Phan
June 27, 1985 - July 22, 2009)