Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unemployed: Redux company stopped being a company yesterday and I'm now out of a job, which obviously means that I'm going to Mexico indefinitely. So...goodbye, Jake Kilroy! Hello, Senor Joaquin Salvador Funnypants!

"funeral for the middle class"

"funeral for the middle class"
written while watching a movie with a man in bandages by jake kilroy.

what is the condition of the middle class?
flat-out fucking dead?

this is why we attend plays,
to pretend culture,
or why we spend hours looking at christmas lights
on december 27th,
because we can't ever go home
without thinking
about the lovers
we pray are dead
without us.

the middle class is one big mass grave
of people that considered revolution
and then stopped.
twas just working class jive talk
that fell short
in the mechanic shops
where fear paralyzed us
and the shitty bars
where everyone drowned.

so we built churches
and prayed to gods
made of wood and regret,
called coffins statues
and feigned misery
to feel esteemed.

no gods,
no masters,
no peers,
no nothing.
this time,
we dance until we cry.

without songs or souls,
merciless and less,
we're starving at buffets
and complaining
about snacks.

this is the world,
broken and buried,
shoved into a closet
that belongs to the world's loneliest poet.

ethnic food for the white beggars
with income and benefits.
failure for the poor,
failure for the rich,
goddamn nothing for the middle class.

this is us sneaking into coffee shops
and hiding out in record stores,
all so we can get drunk
and check our voice messages
and hear the horrifying gasps
of our ex-lovers
that once left us
for people
that were like us
that don't like us
and wear better clothes.

in between the lines,
tucked away between words,
i'll explain everything to a stranger
at the airport
after a handful of pills
and a mouthful of shots.
but i won't brush my teeth
in front of my significant other
because i find this home life
the most doldrum waste of scars.

sure, sure,
these are the bandages i shoplifted
and the keepsakes i dipped in holy water,
the laughs i kept in glass bottles
and the weather i hoped would never come.
but it'll never be the party i wanted,
the shot of adrenaline i called medicine,
the hope with me i carried like a lucky coin.

this is a terrible idea from a scholar,
a wish from a kid who can't dream,
maybe even the last train home,
in a house where no one sleeps well.

so if this is the funeral for the middle class,
the one foretold in rumors and fliers,
you better count your lucky fucking stars
that i've got a few good dollars in my pocket.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"in a nation of hope"

"in a nation of hope"
written while putting off needed sleep by jake kilroy.

a couple of black flag songs
being played too loud
in the basement.

one kid working on his car,
dreaming of highways
and empty beer bottles.

this country at war,
carving hearts up
and framing them.

play music,
drive fast
and stick around.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Five Things That Are Awesome

1. BAND: The Horrible Crowes
You know who's rad? The Gaslight Anthem. You know what's rad? The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon doing a side project that he describes as "The Gaslight Anthem : Bruce Springsteen :: The Horrible Crowes : Tom Waits." It's Fallon and his guitar tech, Ian Perkins, and their debut album Elsie is so damn legit with the right amount of everything. Like the Gaslight Anthem, it's broken hearts alongside brass knuckles, churning honest nostalgia into earnest swagger. Check out these songs: I Witnessed A Crime, Crush, Behold The Hurricane, Ladykiller. Black Betty & The Moon.
2. MOVIE: My Dinner With Andre
I rented My Dinner With Andre from my local library because of a spoof episode on Community. Also, I like Wallace Shawn a whole lot. Plus, an entire movie that's just a dinner conversation with four stars from Roger Ebert? What I thought would be an extended conversation about art and friendship turned out to be one of the most diligently philosophically and easily engaging movies I've ever seen. The two of them discuss the whimsical big picture (musical theater in a European forest) versus the appreciated small things (morning coffee and crossword puzzles) in such a poetic and amusing sense, you feel as if you're eavesdropping on old friends at a fancy restaurant.
3. TV SHOW: Community
I can't believe they might cancel Community. That's goddamn insane. The show feeds my love for pop culture, meta-humor, wit, deadpan, real world observations and spoofs. I don't have to describe it because you should already be watching it. I mean, we're going to cancel Community and just let NCIS have another fucking season? Great, world. That's just great.
4. BOOK: The Girl Who Played With Fire
With years of investigative journalism behind him, Stieg Larsson understood an important thing about storytelling: people make events, events don't make people. You'd think this would be obvious to novelists everywhere, but, year after year, one lazily written book comes out after another and it's due to authors wanting scenes and outcomes more than motives and movements. The thriller genre of fiction lets that shit slide like crazy. But Larsson's crafted a tightly wound trilogy and I'm in the middle of the second book. The Girl Who Played With Fire changes up the story better than almost any other sequel I've ever read. Larsson has created exciting characters that have realistic feelings and function with deep purpose in a world of horrendous violence.
5. RANDOM: Derweze (or Darvaza)
There's a Gate to Hell in Turkmenistan. Soviet geologists were drilling there in the '70s and the ground collapsed. Underneath the rig was a gas pocket. Thinking it would burn off in a few days, they waited. Well, now it's 40 years later and the pit is still burning. It hasn't stopped since. Hell yes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Old Flames XI: The Genius Art Of A Fallen Society

Run from this town, I've got the get-outta-here blues. Pack up the caskets and feed the horses, we've got a two-day ride. To where, a man of god will ask. To the promise land, an outlaw will answer. And all but the preacher will laugh.

This is the highland lowlife livin' we told and sold to the saviors. These are the secrets we used to bargain for our lives. What did you give up, the public will ask. We'll say nothing and they'll believe it. But then we'll say everything. We gave up everything. Every word in the dictionary was given up. Every misspelling in the holy books was given up. Every error in the history books was given up. Every laughable mistake in brochures and presentations was given up.

"This is the time of the businessman?"

"Nay, this is the fall of the businessman."

Well, what gives, donkeys and elephants? Where's the school spirit? Where's the ol' college try? Maybe these questions would be more opportune if you hadn't cut the education budget. Thanks for burning the prisons so we could have the caves, pundits. We waged war with ourselves and all we got were these lousy casualties. Is there honor in merit? Well, consider: is there merit in honor? Answer either and you'll be shot for the irony.

Remember what plagued our lands? Good, then tell us. We're nearly out of sitcom reruns to behold. Give us our holiday, what be the enemy's name?

"Us," she'll say in red and gray.

The crowd will panic. And that'll be the end of it. That'll be the last great act of this country. It'll be our ruins, left for the world to behold the first country to go mad with power.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"betray your heroes of rock 'n roll"

"betray your heroes of rock 'n roll"
written off-hand by jake kilroy.

part i:
betray your heroes of rock 'n roll.
give up the drugs, stay home
and get a job.
attend museums and organize picnics.
talk about daycare centers,
talk about tax reform issues,
talk about the future, finally.

build a fence, paint it white
and buy a dog.
name it after someone you loved.
keep it to yourself
until you tell your family at dinner
on some random sunday evening.

eat healthy, jog at night
and be safe with fire.
remember pranks that went wrong.
laugh about them,
but quietly wish you were
a teenager again without a curfew.

tell your kids your favorite memories
but paint them as mistakes.
lose control one evening
and blow off steam by driving.
recall how you used to smoke cigarettes.
don't buy cigarettes.
buy a coffee drink you can't pronounce.
don't go home.
end up at the hill overlooking the city.
don't give up.
just recite yourself the promises you made
when you were a kid.
rationalize everything.
tell yourself you accomplished everything.
tell yourself that your inner kid is happy.
tell yourself that yourself is happy.
apologize to your heroes of rock 'n roll
and tell them they don't mean shit to you.
you have a family now.
and the last thing you want is rock 'n roll.

part ii:
listen to rock 'n roll on the way home
and tell it that you'll never leave.
but you still have a family.
and they mean everything to you.

part iii:
listen to rock 'n roll when working on your car
and you can't find the tool you need.

part iv:
listen to rock 'n roll when your kids go to college
and you have an empty house.

part v:
listen to rock 'n roll when you reach your twilight
and you want to relive.

part vi:
listen to rock n' roll when you've got nowhere to be
and all you want in this world is a song.

Friday, December 2, 2011

"dig at your own bones"

"dig at your own bones"
written earnestly by jake kilroy.

dig at your own bones,
scratch 'til your skin opens up,
'til your flesh gives you a home.
open yourself up like a gift
and claw at the demons
too high on opium to fight back.

wiggle your fingers into the heart
and pump it yourself.

brush off the dust from lack of use.
swallow the dust to put something in your stomach.
let the dust settle when you go to bed alone.

curve your muscles as a refresher course.
remember what it feels like to fight.
beg your body's forgiveness.

put both hands in now.
tie your fingers together.
make prayer.

tug on your lungs to cough up stale air.
choke on it, sniff it back in, spit it out.

crawl up your throat and remove the words
lodged in there for years.
give gravity to them and push into your heart
to hear your gut grumble with unease.

stand back up.
brush your gums clean from the inside.
grit your teeth and swallow your tongue.
give it back to your mouth and lick your lips.

carve last words into your chest.
so when the coroner comes,
he'll know your regrets.

dive your wrists down your torso,
massage the roots of your organs
to give thanks that they still work.

make yourself honest
by dragging bloody fingers across your skull
and proclaim it rock art
for scholars to find,
when they want to know how we failed as a species.

nod to know you can.
reach down to bend your knees.
make prayer again.
wipe tears.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"wet bible pages"

"wet bible pages"
written with very little by jake kilroy.

a coughing fit at midnight,
spilled water on my books,
realized i still had your bible.

read it through, didn't ring true,
so, darling, to hell with you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Old Flames X: Borne Into The Sea

I was borne into the sea, like a sailor overboard with a drinking problem and mermaid troubles. I was caressed into the air by the willowy arms of a god that had long forgotten his own problems with the church. I was dashed onto land by the screaming, scraping majesty of a cold air front. This is the wind. This is the bends. This is the end of the world for pessimists.

Imagine a country without borders, a corral without cowboys, a chick without curves. What would we have? Anarchy, surely.

This is ten broken promises counted on ten broken fingers. This is the list of new year's resolutions being used for kindling. This is the breakfast I lied about eating. This is the second drink I've had for lunch. This is the three botched dinners I made you as apologies.

How well are we doing on time? Oh, that bad eh?

Well, then it's too late for lovers' quarrels and fantasies about past lives. We've got a house to build and neighbors to scorn. Why can't we all own pianos? Wouldn't that make things easier? How would we rob and murder each other if each of us were classically trained? If there were symphonies for every block, why would we ever use and abuse each other? Was that a good idea? I actually came up with it as a child. Watch the world get harder.

This is for all the broken casts with penny poetry scrawled into the white paint. This is for the red tape of democracy and the yellow tape of crime scenes. This is for party favors. This is for the old school. This is for the new wave. This is for the sleight of hand in every card deal.

This is for every kid breaking out of their house at night. This is for every teenager breaking into houses. This is for every twenty-something breaking hearts. This is for every thirty-something breaking up marriages. This is for every forty-something and beyond breaking their own promises to themselves.

This is for the rest of us. This is for the nobodies, the somebodies, the anybodies - all everybodies with antibodies. We are now moving matter. We are now making matter. We are now making sure we matter. This is why we move, so we can fill new deserts and taste new oceans.

The saltiest kiss I ever had was a girl's shoulder after a swim. That was one fine summer. She was young and I was young and all we had was youth.

To realize it now, as an adult is tragic: my most battled quality is my perfectionist drawl about being an outlaw. But what if I had my youth again? Would I pray for ivory beds and silky hair? Would I sneak off and abandon my parents? Would I make the most of a bad idea?

These are the questions to ask. These are the answers to beg for. These are the conversations we have with ourselves when we read a good book. These are the lyrics we know to the songs we hum in showers. These are the newspaper clippings I turned into revolutionary themes. How are we crass? We are crass by proxy, of course.

"Oh, now tell us how it ends, young, beautiful murderous thieves."

"In a stage bow, I promise you."

That is grand enough for me, for I have books to read and books to write. But how will I ever write with the future so very much a concern? I will figure it out later!

"Ah yes, famous last words..."

"The most famous indeed."

Well, then this is for the weddings, the funerals and the romantic getaways that fill our lives in constant ecstasy we deny and continuous euphoria we don't believe. That is truly remarkable, citizens of the world. All we ever really needed was tree houses and candles. Everything else is just trim.

"It's settled then. We shall kill ourselves."

"It really seems like the only honorable solution."

So, march forward, brave men and women! We honor your defeat by way of thunderous applause! Hear me now in this cavern!

"He's lost it now."

"If it was ever really there..."

Ah yes, the true nature of wisdom is the ability to talk with ease.

So give me the microphone.

I've got a culture to save.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I've had a lot of great days in my life. Hell, I've had a lot of flawless days this year. But, man, Saturday was incredible.

It's easy to point out big events and say, "Hey, that day was something." Obviously, when I first wandered Sydney, Paris or New York City, those days were big. And, sure, the first time I saw my name in print or bought booze legally for the first time have been grand moments in my never-ending carousel of a life, but that's not what I mean.

And I don't even mean really fun days that you'll always remember, such as Memorial Day of this year when I stayed in a seaside mansion with all the time in the world or the Mexico trip when we got robbed and almost drove off a cliff.

No, what I mean is the epic days that were made out of impromptu nothing. To me, what's impressive is when you can go to bed laughing about things that you'll easily forget in years to come. It was easier in our youth, when we only worked two days a week and could go swimming, bike-riding, partying and swooning in a single evening with ease and without worry. What gives me chills is to be so ecstatic about moments that may not even be on the radar for others (a classic parade of "you just had to be there").

Saturday was one of those days.

After attending a pirate show on Friday with more than a dozen friends for a birthday and drinking beers the size of my arm one after another, the lot of us came back to my basement bar and inhaled whiskey and beer until the early hours of the next day.

So, on Saturday, I woke up in search of the trains that hit me with Chase saying nobody was home. So, the two of us watched the Lil' Wayne documentary wearing only the jeans we slept in.

We told Rex to return/come over and the three of us goofed off until visiting my mom's farmers market booth and grabbing breakfast at Kimmie's Coffee Cup in the Orange Circle. Filled to the brim with food and laughter, we came back to the empty house to do dives off the stairs and couches onto oversized beanbags like oversized children. Nobody home but us kids, we thought. Sweaty and shirtless, we got rid off our pants and drank mimosas in our underwear on the back patio to compose a sincere letter to a friend before going through old photos and reminiscing about our younger exploits.

Around six, Dave, Sara and Brian (Dave's roommate) picked the three of us up and we sped out to Joshua Tree singing one song after another, where we stayed at a house (my first time out there not sleeping in a tent or a van). There, we inhaled whiskey and beer again until we played an erotic board game turned quiz show with contestants being tossed beers on the roof. Also, there was a brief scare of aliens, a costume contest that just about everybody won and an hour-long gigglefest over nicknames from a label maker. After scarfing down food from the super killer Mexican restaurant for some reason in Joshua Tree, we fell asleep watching The Big Hit.

What a fucking day.

The Great Gatsby

Other goofy takes on The Great Gatsby are on Hark! - A Vagrant, but the phrase "fuck the jazz age" makes this one my favorite.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Old Flames IX: If I Were God

If I were God, I'd pray for better angels. I'd wager all of my feathery white gold on the anarchists that made it past the gate. Saint Peter just wanted to see what would happen with a little graffiti and color. So, let us paint this heaven before tumbling down the splintery ladder to earth. See you on the other side, darling. See you were it counts.

But with longer lashes and sweeter dashes, right? Because how can I rely on an empty wallet? Bash these brains in to see roses. A severed head for a pot, so the grin always glows. Mark(et) my words, I've had it with these wars. I'm done with the class fights and protest rights.

I was in the grocery store tonight and nobody bothered anybody. Everyone stacked their carts with turkeys. Thanksgiving is this week. All I had in my hands was vegetable oil and cookie frosting. What was I then? Can I still be an adult if red wine is all I've got for dinner? Come on, we were the tragic generation? We came from homes that were broken homes a generation before. We came with the stitches already on our body. We came with plaster on our bedroom walls. We came with duct tape and glue. We came into the world sick to our stomachs. We aren't broken. The system is broken. It didn't come out fixed like we did.

So give us our medals, bestow us our pride and give us your thanks for looking at the world like a last meal. Don't hand us the hate, the guilt, the regret, the patriot acts. Don't feed us the lies, the greed, the horror, the dragging curse of a western god. This was our mess. From when we had town halls in school rooms to now, between the sweaty hand and the big red button, this was a final stand against ourselves. But no one will show, you say? Well, we all have flaws and freedoms to give the world just cause for tying us down. It's a wicked world, but it's always been one or the other, and that other world is like one long terrible dinner party.

Now, what is? What shall we all have? Have we questions? We have answers. So, why start making a joke now? Why didn't we always just think this? Why did we have to hate and worry and fear what so many of us all do?

We are all treasures with different values, says the magician.
We are all coins with scratches, says the philosopher.
We are all money, says the kid.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"If Only We Could"

"If Only We Could"
after coming home by jake kilroy.

i wish i could write poetry on my knuckles
and drum them on your window,
on rainy, blasphemous nights,
when you're up reading late.

that would be my new year.
that would be my resolution.

you would be the heart i wish existed,
the lungs that weren't beyond repair,
the legs that can always run home
and the brain filled with hope.

why couldn't we just live here?
why couldn't we just give in?
what makes us go west?

to the sun, to the ocean,
to the fairy tale stories,
told and retold to generations
that come after the war's end.

this shall be one long, dazzling display
of affection, of realism, of comfort.
this will be the graffiti in words,
painted with the colors of adventure.

break more pens in furious rants,
bust more cracks for a sinful grin,
lay waste to all the times i begged for forgiveness.


this is what we have.
why not make the best of it?

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Knife Studies"

"Knife Studies"
a poem from a dark, empty house by jake kilroy.

Anarchist blessings for those camping in life,
burning old bills and sticks through their hearts,
cutting out snowflakes and pasting new stars,
oh, what fun an afternoon can be with a knife.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Autumn Leaves (Me Feeling Productive)

Last night, I put together more than 100 envelopes for submissions of my essay/poetry/short story collection to literary agents. Then I went to my extremely talented artist friend Alex's house and handed him the two kids books I've written, as he'll be illustrating them all kinds of radical. And, this weekend, I should finish a few more chapters of rewrites on my novel.

However, as for tonight, I'm going to get drunk as hell in my basement bar, if anybody needs me.

Also, there's colorful leaves all over my front yard and backyard and it's goddamn tremendous. I'm working from home today and I can't stop looking out my window. Outstanding work, Autumn.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Replacements

The Replacements
by Jake Kilroy

I saw the Replacements documentary Color Me Obsessed in Los Angeles on Friday with Lindsay. The "rockumentary" (one of my least favorite words ever actually) featured friends and fans, but no actual members or music of the Replacements. So, when someone mentioned a song or an album cover, you just had to know it. It was sort of a documentary made for serious fans, I guess.

The Replacements, for those (for whatever reason) who haven't discovered them, were incredible. Their career was basically the 1980s (1979-1991) and, to many, they were the last great rock 'n roll band. The four drunks from Minnesota were Paul Westerberg on vocals and rhythm guitar, Bob Stinson on lead guitar, Tommy Stinson on bass and Chris Mars on drums. Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley stepped in at the end, when the band was falling apart, but The Replacements, as in the legendary boozing goofs from Minneapolis, are those original four.

They were critic darlings, they influenced way too many bands to count and, yet, when you find a fellow Replacements fan, it's like acknowledging a member of your secret club. Shit, I was at a show last year when I was talking to the singer of a band called Whitman. I asked him what his band sounded like. He told me, " favorite band is The Replacements." I cut him off and said that I'd just buy his albums right then and there, as if supporting another Replacements fan is always the right thing to do.

The 'Mats (nicknamed that because of a misprint they found hilarious when promoted as The Placemats) are one of my all-time favorite bands, if not my actual favorite. Ok, they are my favorite band, but it's hard to say sometimes, because I think Bob Dylan was the best songwriter of the 20th Century and The Clash was easily the most talented (without getting into the whole Beatles debate). But The Replacements resonate with me like no other band out there. They were having more fun than anyone, they couldn't help but get famous, they played shows in the flannel or t-shirt they wore all day and they would get drunk in lawn chairs. They were so astoundingly talented without really giving a shit. While serious musicians would sit in a studio and craft a song for weeks, meticulously working towards perfect musical harmony or whatever, The Replacements recorded entire albums in a day, all while drinking cheap beer. And then critics would tell them how great they were.

When a magazine called The Replacements "the band of the year," pissed-off top-selling artist of the year Jon Bon Jovi infamously remarked, "If they're so famous, why haven't I ever heard of them?"

To which, I can only assume The Replacements laughed and said, "Who the hell gives a shit about Bon Jovi?"
Maybe the reason I have trouble naming them definitely as my favorite band is because I'm always kind of mad at them. I'm mad at them for never properly considering how great they were. I'm mad at them for kicking Bob out (as one dude in the documentary stated, "How much of a mess do you have to be kicked out of The Replacements for being a drunk?"). I'm mad at them for wanting to leave the past behind. I'm mad at them for biting every hand that ever fed them. I'm mad at them for sentimentality getting the best of Westerberg's writing in the end. A lot of their friends in the documentary said it was hard to be a Replacements fan sometimes, because every time they had the opportunity to move on, they'd just blow it off most of the time.

But all of that shit is also why I adore them. And I didn't even discover them until a year after their Fourth of July on-stage break-up.

I was in second grade when I dug through my father's glovebox and rummaged through his music collection. I found cassettes for The Cure's Disintegration, Rickie Lee Jones's Traffic From Paradise, Los Lobos's Kiko and, most famously, The Replacements' Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash. And that album straight up changed my world. It was my first instance of finding new music and I technically did it on my own. My parents would've shown me them at one point or another, I figure, as my parents were responsible for getting me into really cool music: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Who, Fine Young Cannibals, Johnny Cash, et cetera. My dad was even the one who got me into The White Stripes and Outkast.
But what I found in that Replacements tape was overwhelming. At that young age, all music is polished. Everything you're exposed to is flawlessly done. But you're also not exposed to much music. So, it's very easy to assume, "oh, so this is music." To hear four guys play the shit out of what they called "power trash" probably shaped me right then and there. Everything was inconsistent. There were random yells and no chorus sounded the same. Songs tapered off, the guitar was lower in certain parts, there were mistakes everywhere. One woman in the documentary described the solos as "hitting all the wrong notes at the right time."

But that's what I love them for. Nobody could say, "hey, there's a lot of mistakes on this album," because The Replacements would smugly reply either, "Are there?" or, "Yeah, so?" They put out punk classic after punk classic before evolving into a complex alternative band, because, as Westerberg stated, "We write songs rather than riffs with statements." So, they got sick of the punk scene and moved on to acoustic songs and songs with horns.

On Let It Be, there's a soft, tortured piano tune about laying off gender benders ("Androgynous") alongside a loose punk jam called "Gary's Got A Boner." Respected music critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A+. Also, it was named Let It Be, because their producer was a huge Beatles fan. The Replacements joked about naming the album Let It Be and their producer told them they couldn't. Ever the dissenters, the 'Mats decided on the spot to name it Let It Be, because, hey, why the hell couldn't they?
When I recorded my four-song project last year, I kept trying to fix it up and make it sound like a professionally recorded album, which was clearly stupid. Then I thought of Sorry Ma and wondered, "Aren't all the mistakes, like, half the reason I love The Replacements?"

I love them for their shrug-off-everything spirit, because it makes them impossible to criticize without them getting in the last word. They're like those brilliant kids in school who don't fully apply themselves. They may be slackers, but everyone knows what they're capable of, if only they really tried. Who knows what The Replacements would've become if they sobered up and started really putting in efforts with the fame machine? Now, sure, that may absolutely appear to be a cop-out, but I like that they existed during an era of hair metal bands and new wave groups being way too into themselves, with everyone tripping over themselves to be a one-hit wonder. All the while, The Replacements scored critical praise and just sort of laughed about it. And it wasn't like they "just wanted to be artists" or "ignored the fame in order to create." They seemed like they just wanted to do whatever made them happy, which was just being a band.

So, instead, they showed up drunk to their shows. They even showed up drunk to their 1986 performance on Saturday Night Live, which got them banned forever, as one reviewer noted that they were "mouthing profanities into the camera, stumbling into each other, falling down, dropping their instruments and generally behaving like the apathetic drunks they were." Rumor has it that NBC had to rebuild the green room because The Replacements got into a food fight and destroyed the whole thing.

Fans would arrive at their shows without knowing what the hell would happen. They were deemed "the greatest live band ever" by someone once with a tongue in cheek, because either they played harder than anyone else or they got too hammered to really care how things went. No show was ever the same. And everyone's favorite shows, it seems, were usually the ones when The Replacements also became "the world's greatest cover band." Realizing the band was too drunk to correctly do their own songs, fans at their shows would yell out random songs they wanted to hear. If one of the members knew how to play it, he'd try and the rest of the band would follow, everything from the Defranco Family's "Lovebeat - It's A Heartbeat" to "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams. One fan remembered a show where they were too drunk to play anything but The Beach Boys' "Help Me, Ronda."

When a teacher found out I liked The Replacements in high school, he burned me copies of their bootlegs (as well as The Shit Hits The Fans), just so we could talk about their live shows.
Some memories that fans shared:
- A guy went to a Replacements show with his cousin, who was a huge fan of the four-piece. While playing pinball, a dude asks him for a spare quarter to play the machine next to him. Guy gives the dude a quarter. They played pinball. The Replacements come on stage and start playing. Guy notices there's only three people on stage and wonders what happened to the fourth one. After two songs, guy turns to the dude and says, "Hey, I'm gonna go watch the band." Dude grabs his arm and says, "No, man, we started this together. We have to finish it." They keep playing pinball until the dude's last ball drops. Dude smiles and says, "Thanks! Gotta go!" Turns out that the dude who bummed a quarter is Bob Stinson. He tries to climb on stage, but Westerberg keeps kicking him.

-The Replacements opened for Tom Petty following the release of Pleased To Meet Me. At a music festival on their tour, they showed up on stage in drag (clothes they stole from Petty's wife). Westerberg then yelled into the microphone, "Tom Petty said he'd fire us if we fucked up again. But you know what? Fuck you, Tom Petty! And fuck you too, Nashville!" The band then played four or five songs before launching into a ten-minute instrumental version of Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side."

- A show was over, but Paul Westerberg was drunk and wanted to keep playing, so he did solo songs until hardcore kids started heckling him. He said, "Hey, come up here and play if you think you can do better." So, he took his spot behind the drums and the two hardcore kids played guitar and bass, and the three of them played "Louie, Louie" for half an hour.

That last one might be The Replacements in a nutshell: anyone can play music. They started off as a drunk (Bob), a janitor (Paul), an artist (Chris) and a 14-year-old little brother (Tommy). They were a crew of misfits who kind of gave a hard time to anybody who complimented them. They wanted to play music, but it seems like nobody could ever tell if they really wanted to leave the garages and basements. When they found commercial success, they would shoot themselves in the foot to keep from going mainstream. And it's hard to tell if it was systematic or they really just couldn't help themselves, like they had to self-destruct to live up to their own reputation. So it's funny that when they were self-destructing, they put out two pretty, well-constructed and polished-sounding records (which I, as well as most fans, actually like the least).

When sound engineers would tell them to play songs slower or faster, they'd just say, "Oh, I forgot the we'll just have to keep it the way it is." They'd draw marker lines on the clothes of studio representatives. They'd drink their weight at the bar with fans before a show.
But they never became charity cases. They never started doing heroin with groupies. They never trashed a million dollar hotel room. They never made personal regrets or public apologies. They were just drunks, for the most part (but, I mean, seriously reckless drunks). They weren't going to after-parties or big bashes in their honor. Someone once described them as "one of the most famous bands that never really left the garage." They could play a show in a basement or a stadium and it would've been the same. They would've gotten hammered, worn whatever they felt like (including tutus) and then played their music however they wanted, no matter what other people wanted them to do. If somebody told them to play their old songs, they'd either play all the old songs to be really true to their fans or they'd only play new songs just to piss them off. They even covered a Kiss song on one of their albums because they knew how many their fans hated Kiss. I suppose that's why being a fan of The Replacements in the '80s was a complicated ordeal, because you never knew if The Replacements were really on your side.

When the just-starting-out Goo Goo Dolls opened for The Replacements on what would be the Mats' last tour, the four drunks ripped apart all of their backstage passes and slapped them to the stage, so when the Goo Goo Dolls (who were too poor to afford shoes at the time) would walk on stage, their feet would get stuck. Meanwhile, The Replacements sat off to the side, howling with laughter and drinking cheap beer from a cooler they brought from home.
After the movie, it was midnight and I didn't feel like going home. The movie put me in a weird mood. So I just sped along the Southern California coastline. I ended up in San Pedro, cruising around the port and listening to "Within Your Reach." Pretty soon, I was in Redondo Beach listening to "Careless." And then I was atop Signal Hill blasting "Buck Hill." It took me more than two hours to get home, just from aimless meandering. Apart from what I learned on the drive (like how this state has way too many CVS stores), I acknowledged some curious feelings about the band that's always, always, always been closest to my heart.

The fans of The Replacements can be like the actual band. Towards the end of the documentary, a drunken couple kept heckling the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls whenever he came on the screen. As much as it bothered me, I wondered, "Isn't that what The Replacements would've done anyway?" I mean, The Replacements didn't respect anybody. This is the same band that drunkenly broke into their studio and stole what they thought were the master copies of their previous four albums and threw them into the Mississippi River. The band knew what they were doing, but they either got too drunk or played dumb all the time. And I figure they did it so nobody would ever make them into something they didn't want to be. Hell, when they got the chance to make their own professional music video, everyone gave them a million ideas. Do this, do that, said everyone. So, just to be dicks, The Replacements shot their entire music video for "Bastards Of Young" with a speaker playing. That's it. Seriously. The entire music video for "Bastards Of Young" is just one, long black-and-white shot of a speaker.

So, as I made my way home at the slowest of rates, I recognized landmarks from past times of getting lost. I ended up at the San Pedro bridge that Jeff and I reluctantly went over after getting lost trying to find a record store in Long Beach in my Deathmobile, I passed a coffee shop where I caught up with an old flame one summer after a playhouse flooded and we were left with nothing to do and I finally found my way back to the freeway because of a round-about Non and I circled when trying to find Cal State Long Beach.

But, because I've been listening to The Replacements for practically my whole life, a whole lot of their songs carry weight with memories too. I remember Bret, Rex and I myself dancing around Chase to "Can't Hardly Wait" in my old backyard, I remember dissecting "Customer" with Jeff and Nick on our way to Mission Viejo to spend the summer as punks in foreign territory and I recall driving fast every time "Hayday" comes on.

The Replacements is my band. They're the most personal band I listen to, since I discovered them by myself and they've been with me since I was a kid. And nothing they did ever felt forced. They weren't trying to be big stars or punks. They acted like they didn't care because they legitimately didn't care. And, because music history is all sorts of screwy, not enough people listen to The Replacements, so I actually get to tell people about them. I don't show very many people bands they haven't heard before. I'm very often on the receiving end of it. But The Replacements is the band that I get to show to people and it's, like, crazy exciting to do. It's amazing that I get to be the one who says, "Holy shit, you've never heard The Replacements? Ok, I'm going to give you The Replacements."

So, anyway, if you've never listened to Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash or Stink or Hootenanny or Let It Be or Tim or Pleased To Meet Me or Don't Tell A Soul or All Shook Down...well, then...I give you The Replacements.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Stand Prayers

"When I came at the world, I brought everything I had. It wasn't much, not by the standards of Fitzgerald or Bukowski. It was a pack of cigarettes, a lighter my father gave me and a loneliness nobody could put into words. How's that for apathy?" asked the man.

"Your name is in everyone's prayers," answered the kid.

The man nodded while the kid threw stones off the nearest cliff.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Magician's Veil: Part One

"The Magician's Veil: Part One"
the beginning of something by jake kilroy.

The steam of the city came from every crack. It was the hottest month of the year and the poor of the downtown, an area known only as The Gray, knew it better than anyone. The Gray hid in the broken heart of the skyline, though it felt like the edge of civilization. Hissing and whistling came from the grates and the walls, as the water below them shook desperately to escape.

A young man by the name of Squile, pronounced "skill," left his block in search of a magician. As he kicked the cans of the alleyways and the dirt of the backroads, tucked away by the bridge, he felt the violent dreams coming back. Flashes of light careened in his head, bouncing off his ears and piercing his eyes with what he could only explain as "spiritual visions." Without any money, his family suggested he go in search of a magician, as the chance of affording a physician was slim, if not impossible.

Squile ducked through the sewer systems to make haste, tossing a switch blade in his hands for rats and thieves. He whistled his neighborhood's anthem, so any creeping sharp grins would know he was from the dirtiest of districts, making him the dirtiest of fighters. Now, on the other side of the water, Squile jumped through a pipe that had been set up as a hidden slide into an underground poker room. He slid, dragging his blade against the concrete towards the end to slow him down just enough to keep his stride when he hit the plank wood of a tavern's cellar. Several men played cards at a table nearby. They hardly noticed him.

This burrough, known only as The Range, was considerably cleaner than Squile's stake of city land, but it was the lowest level of interest for the other side of the river. Squile went up the stairs, kicked open the door and meandered through the bar of restless street tycoons. Broken bottles filled the trash cans, the bartender had a small arsenal beneath the counter and most of the crowd wore bowler hats with no smiles to match. It was loud and awful, but Squile moseyed through, still whistling his proud district tune. The locales knew him, but not by anything more than "kid." Squile was neatly dressed, or as fashionable as one could be from The Gray. Wearing a thin three-piece suit with shorts instead of pants, as pants were much more expensive in the city's tailor shops and a sign of class, Squile was as fancy as he figured he'd ever look. He was on the street and finally stopped tossing his knife in the air. Instead, he took in The Range.

Nearly everything in The Range was painted a shade of white or brown. The cobblestone streets were brown, the buildings were brown, both the horses and carriages were brown. One thing after another was either white or brown. The windows were white, the sky was white, the dresses were white. Squile nodded to nobody and stepped off the tavern's porch, slipping his sharp toy into his coat pocket.

Sunset was soon approaching, as the crew of lamplighters put the candles to work. Squile heard the angry chants of a fruit vendor at the market, which was spread through a large alley. Chalking up a sly smirk, Squile dodged carriages and beggers to make his way over. Without any hesitation, he bumped into the nearest lamplighter, who fell backwards into the angry fruit vendor, spilling his inventory. The lamplighter and the fruit vendor got into it, all while Squile collected his earnings.

Now looking like a young, lumpy man, Squile ate his winnings casually, with several more to go in his pockets. The sky was blood red by the time he reached Mortigan's Square and well on its way to darkness. Squile caressed the brickwork of the square until he came to a corner of ivy. The ivy was everywhere, except for a gaping hole in growth near the bottom. Squile brushed off some mortar dust and pushed on random bricks.

A churchbell rang in the distance. The sun was coming down upon the city. The brutal light of the sky flodded the streets in the final gasp of the horizon's breath.

Squile, still tapping at bricks, clicked his tongue and bit his lip, wondering what he should do. It was one thing to visit The Range. It was something else entirely to sleep in its streets. He just had to get beyond the wall.

Finally, his fingers stumbled upon a groove in the dirt and he pulled as hard as he could. The brick rolled in its place with the sound of gears replacing the gutter talk and drunken chatter awash in the square.

The bricks parted to form a small, though truly grand, entrance into a stone courtyard. It looked desolate and abandoned. Squile made a face. This was not what he was told would be. The rumors and wild talk had always suggested the courtyard was lavishly adorned with the most curious garden in the city's history.

Dumbfounded and disappointed, Squile made his way across the courtyard, taking in the spectacular nothing around him. Deteriorating walls of once-majestic masonry surrounded him on three sides as he faced what appeared to be a long-forgotten spice store. Its wooden sign swayed in the lulling breeze. Dry leaves fluttered lazily. Squile's eyes took in the scene once more before he noticed the design below his cloth shoes. Beneath the weight of Squile's increasingly nervous stance, there lay a star within a circle. Squile inhaled quickly. A pentagram in stone is almost never a good omen.

He gasped, reconsidering his intentions. His breaths shortened and sped up. The brick behind him began closing, as stone rubbed stone. Squile sprinted to the hole in the wall, but would've been crushed if he had attempted to jump through it.

There now came a rumbling in his heart he was usually unfamiliar with. Fear, in all of its entangling trickery, crept through him like snakes. His eyes stayed on the pentagram. Could he climb the walls? He wondered. He would have to.

Moving uneasily to the pentagram, Squile lowered his body, ready to run and climb the wall. He relaxed his lungs, exhaled and regained his calm. This is not how the city will kill me, he promised himself.

But before he reached the end of his count, the courtyard exploded with colors. Squile blinked and straightened. In an instant, Squile was in the most breath-taking garden he had ever seen. Flowers he didn't recognize, trees he wouldn't have believed, mesmerizingly soft grass all circled a tiny pond in the corner. In the middle, underneath Squile's feet, the pentagram covered itself in ivy.

And then the door of the shop opened.

Squile spun around and was even more impressed with the shop's appearance. It looked new. Beautiful architecture swept over the shop, now with clean windows and fresh paint. Squile stepped out of the ivy, hyponotized by the beauty. His heart racing and his skin itching, Squile stepped onto the small porch and then into the shop.

The shop's interior was astounding. Walls of velvet, chandeliers of brilliance and endless shelves of world wonders filled the shop, which was overwhelmingly larger than the outside hinted at. Squile moved hesitantly through the shop. Jars of powder and liquid, neatly labeled, filled an entire wall's shelves. Another long shelf featured tanks of plants and mud, each beautifully labeled. Squile jumped as he noticed that each tank contained frogs. The frogs watched him move across the room, towards the other half of the room swathed in black. Squile gulped as he proceeded. More shelves came into sight, each one offering new things that Squile didn't recognize. It was a hall of dreams.

Squile heard a swift movement in the darkness beyond. A knife soared through the air, barely a whisper from Squile's ear, and dug itself into the door frame Squile had come through. Squile shook with anxiety. He trembled as he gritted his teeth, slowly building himself up for what may come.

The outline of a gentleman came from the shadows. He wore an elegant suit, with matching cape and top hat, and held a knife that he twisted into his fingers. The gentleman's calm voice both thrilled and terrified Squile.

"And what may I do for you?" the gentleman whispered in a slow, syrupy growl.

Squile warmed himself up with heavy breaths.

"I want to be a magician," Squile replied.

A thin smile carved its way up the gentleman's face.

"Oh, is that all?" he said. " Then come with me, for we have work to do."

And, with that, the gentleman turned and gently disappeared into the darkness.

Squile heaved a sigh, smiled sharply and then followed the magician into the shadows.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Old Flames VIII: All Gather For This Burial

I'm coming for you, reckless hearts. I'm riding my stagecoach west. But lest we forget you, prayer and politics. We'll ship you out with the coffins. We'll drag you to the coast, to the mountains, to the brink of self-repair, and then we'll burn ourselves alive as martyrs. For what cause? Just 'cause. We ain't fooling this year, this season, this breakdown of days. We've said so much in so little time. Give this next man the podium to speak. He has ideas! He has speeches! He has the world in the palm of his hand! Say what now, bespectacled man? We hardly knew ye. We down the ale and clunk the table, softly dampening the rot of the wood. We'll need that later for shelter, long before we build castles and gods. Sing us to sleep, clergyman. We simply must go on. We should wind through under the city, so we can end up in the better tomorrow. Wait, wait for your beloved. Surely, surely, this is a man who could've fixed Christ. Medic, medic, we've got an apostle here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Utterly Smitten

Ok, these two are on a crazy streak of delightful. My friends Celeste and Kim run a blog called Utterly Smitten. It used to also be run by Leslie (who was kind enough to let me sleep on her New York City living room floor), but now it's just the West Coasters. And they're doing spectacular work.

I ramble on this blog a whole lot and, as a collection, it's wildly self-indulgent. So, Utterly Smitten, in its concise, precise way of articulating joy as a worldly project, is sort of the anti-Cobblestone Address. It's whimsical, gleeful and appreciative. It covers art trends, fashion, food, home decor and general hey-maybe-we-should-be-creative-and-excited-or-just-smile-a-little-more-since-life-really-ain't-so-bad pieces. There's something about the collective vibe of the blog that reads like it's for adults reinventing nostalgia, from treehouses to costumes, and you find yourself wondering, hell, why couldn't we still giggle about old photographs and let our imagination get the best of us?

Some radical posts of late:

- One Couple, Two Houses

- The Soul Of Vinyl

- Dear Photograph, I Love You

- Adventures In Dreaming

Anyway, here and there, I get sick to death of myself and need a break. I can't even imagine how it is for people who aren't me. So, if my blog ever seems like it's become a mess of drunken poetry and obnoxious anecdotes about nothing, I recommend Utterly Smitten. Celeste and Kim are like...rainy day changer extraordinaires, a two-person tribe of the High-Five elite, the elected officials of Good Mood City. Yeah? Yeah.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Old Flames VII: Shadows Come

Shadows come, bear us the frosty mornings we dream in your darkness for. I have lit all candles and sat on my couch all night. I have waited for starlight demons to dazzle me with coy sleight of hand. Mesmerize me, faintest moon beams. Boon with me with a majestic sorrow, for I have cut up your universe and made you lonelier stars.

From this, I became a summer. I sat in the fields of gold listening to the corn grow and a jazz piano in the winding road. We watched afternoon disappear like an old friend. I wrestled with my morals out beyond the creek with my closest of blood brothers. I paved my way to hell and adulthood with shoes I never wore. Shit knows they came every Christmas.

Oh, darling mistress Christmas, you were good to me as a child and I am easing into the winter holiday as an adult. There is new ingredients in the eggnog and friends by the tree. We all become winter wanderers when the weather outside is something we ain't used to. Give me the pumpkins and stars and four leaf clovers from other holidays. We're cooking a seasonal stew to get warm. Stay eternally warm. We want these clouds we threaded to be throw pillows for when we have guests. Let this house fill itself with guests. So, bring every schoolmate and ex, we're drinking ourselves gorgeous tonight.

Hot damn, blessed be our busted knuckles and wrap them in bandages for when we drink our hottest of sweet ale, to finally go swimming into the fearlessly golden beyond.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Old Flames VI: Hammers & Miles

All I wanted to hear was Peter, Paul & Mary's "If I Had A Hammer" or The Journeymen's "500 Miles." Marching through the swamps and meadows, I shed my clothes to be a better man here in the new west. No knives in my pockets, no powder in my nails, I arrived to be greeted by sunshine and soul songs in countryside. Lord, why couldn't I go back home?

Even in this heaven, even in this messiahless land of washboard words and stick clapping, we are only praying away the spirits of Olde English Rule. Bathe me in the river to make me a moralless man. Whisper love letters to the wind and don't pay the government. Harmony came too softly, lovingly rooting itself in American folklore. We all read it, but we never got the anthems tattooed.

Barrel-chested men stand at the cliffs singing sailor songs for dead mates. God buried them at the bottom of the ocean for the sins of drinking buddies. All desolate friends find themselves in churches when the dearly departed catch the last train home. But after two beers and a handful of songs on guitar, we'll all sniff the gunpowder in our broken fingers, wrecked cracking dry by godless hands. Working the railway or the highway, sweating my guts clean for a savior who won't show, this has always been the murderous lullaby.

Here, a man swings from a tree, and it's up to the writers tell you once they decide if the man is alive or dead. Could be the end of the line noose, could be the childhood tire swing. All I know is I'm miles away from home with just a hammer, so either I build stages or gallows. I can swing my tool in the daylight sprites of wayward youth, as I come down on the nails like I was sealing shut the coffin for the last vampire on the west coast.

In the distance, I hear a train and I grin my dirty pale coating, because I know the right kid got outta the country. We'll watch each other shrink in the distance until we see each other as tycoons. We'll compare our hearts like egos and grind our groin slowly. We are men after all. Only gods for a summer evening, we think. What a long ago waste we missed. Put your arm around me, old friend. I want to see our youth and it'll take everything we both have.

I'll forever be away from home, you know. I'll always have the farmland in my red skillet heart, but I'll always have skyscrapers in my diamond sky eyes. Tender and brash, I'll take my grass stains and drinking problems home when the moon comes to set. Just let me see the coast. Just let me breathe the mist and watch the gulls dive. Let me hear the echoes of rocky beaches and the rolling waves of teenage romance.

Let me start over, for I have doors to open and windows to close. Why do last hope criminals get redeemed when I can't do anything about regrets as a god-fearing realist? This is the chain gang as a yuppie boardroom. All men in suits sing the anthems of dead sailors anyway, you see. From the peak of god to the peaks of man come the afternoon heartache, all watching the sun from mirrors in their heartless rooms.

So, we turned on the music and started laughing. Nothing hurt. Nothing came. We just painted a future for the kids we'd have after the shrugs and giggles got out of our system. Then we became husbands and wives. We became kids all over. We just got the money we needed for our big, big plans. Honey, I've loved you since I was a kid. I just didn't know the right name to write in my journal. But I knew you. I talked about you constantly. I told them you'd come. I believed you'd come. I watched all those folk documentaries and foreign films, so I'd have something good to talk about on our first date. I wanted to impress you. I wanted you to get reckless with your heart. Lord knows I did.

There I go again, carving up the gospel, just so I'd have lyrics or poems to give you. I'd give you all my words if I didn't need them for pillow talk. Let me tell you these stories all over again some day with the right music. Darling, honey, you'd be in for one hell of a surprise.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Old Flames V: Dog Statues

I remember the dog statues at the wavy house at the end of the block. It was the summer I discovered the skin of the country. It was Great America on the speakers. The soldiers always came home and got jobs. Some became artists, clueless knives and all. The books were buried. This was the new white burn. It's just one lost love after another.

So this is the tonic water we taste on our tongues. This is the heartache. This is the crassness. This is how I got through the war of it all. So bury this axe tonight in the skin of the door, all with wood from crosses never carried to the holy ground. Yay, yay, the priests will say, but we'll really know just who would toke a quiet huff in the diamond snuff. And so it became the last letter of broken words, severed at the gut. Mankind, why won't we hear us out?

Just because, that will be the empty chant that'll come back, tar and feathers and all, and we won't fall, we won't even crawl, no matter how lonely we get. Savor the smoke, as we drag through the ashes looking for the keys to Heaven.

This masterpiece is too much to ground, so please serve this to the troops. We have one too many authors writing haikus. Get them on the tombstone to save the canvases for tents. Shall we not die out here, away from city kings, away from poisoned church wells, buried hatchet ivies, more failed graces and dead lovers. Move on, move on, please.

Too many comedians swinging from the balcony, too many loons try to stage for free, and we mostly just let the whos and whats figure it all out. Why can't we play God's grand dice game? What are we, poisoned rats? Awash us, awash us, anoint us harrowed princess and garden graveyard of fairies. This was not the end we played so well. Dig it up, dig it up, we have alibis and grudges to deal like the devil's last poker game. Swear it to live, kid o' gray street almighty. Swear it to all graves here.

Surrender, surrender, I never met our maker. We were us and this was that. We just wanted to call it a wrap. Let's do grand here and now, merry roasters and boasters of drink, here we sleep in one rambling house for a tremendous dream. Sleep well, sleep well, sleep in one grace of now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


"If Herman Cain wants proof that sexual orientation isn't a choice, then he should just say, 'Hey, I like women. Could I choose not to?' When he realizes he can't, shouldn't that be the end of the argument right there?" - Kevin Ryder, from Kevin & Bean (surprising, right?)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Last 24 Hours

Well, the last 24 hours have been one wild turn after another. My company is being purchased, resulting in massive layoffs this morning. My car is in the shop for another $1,000+ repair as of this afternoon. And I did nothing today but lay on my couch and watch My Neighbor Totoro and most of Community's Season Two because of some rather harsh food poisoning I brought back with me from Mexico.

But at least I'm still undefeated in my fantasy football league. Hey, that's something, right?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ah, Mexico

I went to Mexico this weekend. I feel like I played a hundred games of backgammon on the beach and danced my feet numb at La Fonda. The paint of my lungs is peeling from cigarettes and coughing from so much laughter. My stomach is full of rice, beans and tequila. I worked on my book like the workweek would kill me. I saw the world in sunglasses and let the wind have a grin so sharp that it would've cut up my hands if I was a praying man.

Also, I need to stop writing posts like this. It's getting, like, super-uber cliche.

But it's like this every time in Mexico and it's been like this for years. Rex and I talked about it during an evening smoke break as we overlooked waves rolling in on an empty beach while a live band played for folks downing real margaritas a stairway up.

We just keep recapturing our youth without even trying. We just keep getting dealt royal flushes south of the border. We just spend our lives never wanting to go home.

Also, they sell puppies at the border now and I can't get over thinking that I'm going to make one hell of an impulse purchase when I get sick of cheese tamales and ice cream. Goddamn.

I'll love you forever, or as long as you let me, Mexico.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Old Flames IV: I Was Sleeping A Mountain

I was sleeping a mountain and coughin' up earth. I slept for days and buried my curse somewhere in Texas, somewhere with a pile of gold and a pistol. We were beggars then. We're bankers now. But we can call it one too many games of three card monty out in the desert. Ride our horses straight into the sunset. But what came? The future rolled with with lighting and thunder, wrecking the dark skies with pale blue and white. So, so pretty, we all said.

But these were days of hot suns and hot damns and the summertime gatherings. Mariners in the lake, darlings in the creek, love awash in dueling streams. There were no need for strings then. No harps, no nooses. We just built our houses with stone. No hanging, no swinging, no playing anthems for choir angels. Though we could use the light, you best ride your horse as fast as you can before the silver screen burns.

This is the future blow, kid. We've got the theaters and the parks for orphan youth to bury the hatchet. We've still got the criminals and crooks. We've still got the roller-coaster that never stops, not in any of us. We've still got the sunsets, the gardens, the fairweather prayers. What was ever wrong with this roof? We could watch the sky send sunshine through skin, breaking the solstice, tickling sparks through the small towns nearby.

I remember these pages of books. I recall these campfire tales of loneliness and grief. No kid grows up wanting a second chance. Why wouldn't we get it right the first time? I looked at my dog once and realized he'd never smoked a cigarette or broken a heart. No one hated him, nobody ever bothered him. I took one last sip of my orange juice and stared at him while he napped. When he woke up, he licked my cheek and everything settled. But, for one night, I figured my dog was smarter than me.

I also remember driving you home in a white dress, I remember losing my heart before my head and I remember coming home with slumped shoulders and a prizefighter grin. I drank honey that summer. I drank cold water. I drank rum in the shade. And that's when I found prayer, though only to the ghosts of history. After too many cigarettes, ask me for a ride home. It's time I should leave.

See you on the other prairie, rhinos.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Old Flames III: The Golen Light of Night

In the bar, there was a mood. Maybe it was a fever. It was scarlet something either way. The dapper yellow dots came from a horn and bounced off the mirror, spilling black notes everywhere, along with the crashing of a melody. We coughed on the gin and told each other stories. She was in pale blue and I was in pale everything. Well, my suit was black, but my soul was ghost white. One too many promises broken to the gods. The worst bookies they were, the lot of 'em. Let the band play, let the friends cheer, let the last drink go down easily. I want one prayer ceremony after another before the Devil finds this dive. We've got a fistful of great days ahead of us and I'm not slipping into a bidding war with the man who steals from the darkest of graves. We could sell our halos for more. So, pry my grip from these tarot cards. We'll see who was dealt a fair hand. Just wait to tip your hat for the bartender still, as he'll be slinging us shots until the end of the world. Drink up, for this soul is all we had and now this fiery glass of regret is all we have. Make waste the cackle, glory in the highest, said the drunken priest. It's just one more man among us. It's just one less god in the world. Can we take home the sky now? This better be the last chant of the tribes of the endless fields and water of the great planet. Now, where were we? Were we in the bellows and howls of the midnight winter slurs? Well, maybe, mariner, you have sailed too far from home. We are value here. Talk to our pirates and chat up our boxers. We have one long journey ahead of us. The cemetery is just down the street, but we'll take the scenic route for a while. Step up, keep up, for this is grand brickwork we tread. Sleep, sleep, says the priest when he can't. This is one harbor stare I won't soon savor. Not enough boats and bells nestling the breeze. And all we did was drink rum inside, laughing cheers to the the battles while heckling our history. This was one long joke told too long. This is last call, folks and mates. Drink up. We have blood on our hands.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Manliness: An Essay

"Where do you have to go for your errands?" Grant asked me, as I put shirts away in my closet last week.

"I don't know," I said with a shrug. "Or, shit, I definitely have to replace my shower nozzle. So...probably, what, Bed, Bath & Beyond?"

"No, dude, you need to go to Home Depot," he laughed.

"Hmmm. I think I was just looking for a reason to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond."

"You should be looking for a reason to go to Home Depot!"

"Oh my god, have you ever been to Bed, Bath & Beyond?"

This is my existence as a man. It's one long misunderstanding of what manly men are supposed to do. Or I imagine that's not entirely accurate. I guess a lot of the time it's me understanding what manly men do and then very purposefully ignoring it. Oh, what, I'm supposed to eat red meat, tell you all about the UCLA/USC rivalry AND know what's wrong with my car? I've got romantic comedies to watch, people!

But it always comes back to my dad telling me and my brother at the dinner table years ago, "I failed you as a father." It was definitely light-hearted, clearly not true and one of the funniest things the man's ever said. But, when it comes to knowing the manly things, my brother and I are somewhat, if not totally, inept. And I'm worse than my brother. We can't build shit, we don't understand cars and we won't follow sports. But at least my brother can barbecue a steak while talking about Game of Thrones or Call of Duty. Hell, he was probably already in the lead when he asked me, "What the hell is Two Weeks Notice?"

Recently, I took a wild turn and joined a fantasy football league. Why? Because my roommate and friends were doing it and I wandered into the basement on Labor Day wearing a bathing suit after partying my ass off on a Sunday evening. They needed an eighth person and they promised me it wouldn't be much work. Well, now, I'm in first place. In fact, I'm undefeated, leading one friend to check the standings once and drunkenly yell, "Jake doesn't even fucking like football!"

It's true. I only watch the sport one or two days out of the year: Super Bowl and New Year's Day (if I'm not in Mexico). Some years ago, I was at a Super Bowl party with an ex-girlfriend. Her friends' boyfriends talked about sports in the '90s and I laid down all of my knowledge about basketball and baseball from the decade, admitting I was a huge fan up until I was a teenager. They were taken aback, as they had heard the rumors that I was some pansy writer vegetarian. One of them asked, "What the hell happened when you became a teenager?" The girl I was with leaned over and answered for me, "He discovered poetry."

That had some weight and truth to it, though it was also because I realized I didn't give a good goddamn fuck about baseball. And then writing and music pushed out my dedication to basketball, though I still follow the playoffs.

I was on the phone with a friend, discussing football players' stats (because I look that shit up now for fantasy reasons), my brother stared at me, grinned and said, "You happy? Talking about sports makes you happy now? So you're into sports now? Just gonna leave your ol' brother behind, eh? Fuck you! I have to start talking about cars now!"

My old roommates were huge Angels fans. Needlessly to say, they stopped inviting me to watch games with them in the living room, because I'd just get drunk on cheap beer and heckle the television. I wasn't rooting for anyone but me then and watching baseball on television is usually tallied up as a loss in my book. Once, they invited my brother over. He said all kinds of solid observations about trades, injuries, RBIs, ERAs and made thoughtful suggestions about what he thought would improve certain players' games. My roommates were impressed. They all told him how much manlier he was than me and that it was cool to have a Kilroy watching sports with them. Then, around the seventh inning stretch, they realized he kept sneaking looks at his phone and took it away from him. After going through his phone's text messages, it became apparent that everything my brother had said in the last hour was actually his friend coaching him. My brother cackled and then made one last observation of the game: "That pitcher's name is really long." They didn't invite him back.

Thus is the Kilroy Brothers' charm: a resonating mockery of most things manly.

The two of us thrive on refusal. If someone tells us to be interested in anything, especially something manly, we automatically become less interested in it. And, not only that, but we also become obnoxiously uninterested in it. This, I believe, has lead to our ability to talk shit better than the average citizen. We actually don't get much flack for not knowing what tools are which, what team won what championship or what makes any car run. But we take serious interest in everything (another Kilroy Brother trait). We want people to tell us about building and mechanical projects. The two of us are sincerely interested in someone telling us why something is interesting to them. We just don't want someone to tell us we should or need like it. Because then it becomes twenty minutes of us making fun of that person until they feel like a dopey fuckard. Nobody in there right mind would put either of us on their list of Top Five People To Have On Your Side In A Physical Fight. However, I think we'd make it to a lot of lists if they fights were verbal.

At some young age, I imagine we were presented with a crossroads: get interested in manly things or get good at talking shit. We very definitely went with the latter. Nobody really hassles us anymore. We love being invited to do manly things, but we'll goddamned if someone's gonna make us do anything. Example: Both of us get invited to go rock-climbing, though neither of us actually rock-climb. Our friends know this. They invite us out to the spots, very nicely ask us if we want to climb and we very politely refuse. Why do we go? Because we love hanging out, camping and drinking. Our interest in sports goes about as far as makeshift games with friends and doing our best to not die of a heart attack.

But, as for general manly interests, I had an imagination that wouldn't tolerate the main interests of manly stereotypes. I built with Legos and my tools were plastic, so I never asked my dad for a real tool belt, since, to me and my wildly delusional brain, I already had one. I never asked my dad to explain an engine to me, because I had bicycles and go-karts. When he tried one time, I was 12 and told him, "This sounds like math."

For the most part, my dad never pushed any interests on me. But he support and/or paid for any interests I discovered, from drums to website software. He never told me who or how to be. His philosophy was, "If I'm a good father, I'll raise a good son who has good interests of his own." However, my dad was a half-breed: half-manly man, half-not-so-manly-man, which is, in all honesty, probably where I truly fall. My dad's the editor of a racing magazine who self-published a poetry book. He can fix things around the house, but he always says he just barely did it. Realizing my meek frame and spazzy outlook on life as a child, my father probably assumed it would've been dangerous for me to do anything with hammer.

I mean, I'm the son of a journalism father and an English major mother. All I did was read. And maybe my brother looked at the television when an old war or cowboy movie was on (they were on at my house all the time) and then looked at me reading some chapter book in bed and made his decision to be the slightly manlier son, and, lately, he seems to only read books about history and environmentalism.

But, still, my brother's manly by family's standards. The influence of cinematic manliness has never really been there for us. My father's brothers want to drink good beer and discuss Irish music, literature and history more than anything else. My mother's only living brother is a reformed backpacker and current artsy carpenter. However, the one who passed away was a football-watching business owner who left this world when I was in elementary school. And then one grandfather taught me how to play the tin whistle and the other took me to see musicals.

I'm a product of my upbringing and my upbringing was whimsical.

Nobody in my family was fixing up a classic car or following hockey. Also, I'm selling my father, uncles and grandfathers short here for a good laugh. Everyone took me camping and fishing, though my interest in fishing died away when I stopped eating meat as a kid...which, come to think of it, probably sent me down this path in the first place. I mean, what, you're gonna explain power tools to a boy who thinks lambs are fucking adorable?

No, because that boy is going to grow up into a man who was legitimately thrilled when he realized he had to buy home decor for his new place. Shit, a few days ago, I had to buy a standing light. Did I go to Home Depot? No. Instead, I went to Lightbulbs, Etc. Is that because I'm not so manly or because I have really dope taste? Well, it didn't matter either way because I certainly don't have very much money and Lightbulbs, Etc. is crazy fucking expensive apparently. So, keeping son of a bitch manly man Grant in mind, I ended up going to Home Depot, which my friends call "Homes Deeps," a la Lord Of The Rings, and scored a really nice lamp for a totally good price. Good job, Home Depot.

Also, that reminds me of the time that Chase took my brother and I to Home Depot when he was going to build my family a new garage door. It was like the cool uncle taking his two sissiest nephews to carry stuff for him. When Chase would say, "Oh, I also need to check out somesortofsomething," my brother would do something like knock on wood and say things like, "Maple, eh? Pretty strong stuff here. You know, you could build a mighty fine shed with this." This line of silliness would lead to me laughing like an idiot and Chase just shaking his head in sympathy. Sometimes, Sarvas would invite the two of us along just to see how the other half views Home Depot. Guess what the answer is? It's like a way less exciting version of Target, where there's no popcorn or pretzals and we can't buy season two of any goddamn TV show.

The friends I see regularly are men who love Home Depot but also maintain lots of half-breed tendencies. The three guys I probably hang out with the most frequently are Grant, Rex and Chase. They all rock-climb, two of them surf, two of them wrestled in high school and they've all been in fights. I don't do any of that. I've rock-climbed a handful of times, but I mostly go with them on trips to hang out in the wilderness. I've surfed a few times, but I almost always prefer reading on the beach. I played junior varsity basketball for one year and then got over it when they put me on varsity. And I've talked my way out of every fight I've ever talked my way into.

However, I've also watched Love Actually, Grey's Anatomy and The Notebook with those dudes. Also, we definitely maybe saw Definitely, Maybe together in theaters on Valentine's Day one year. So...those are the sorts of half-breeds I hang out with. My high school friends, on the other hand, will never understand why I like anything.

I see manhood as the ever-changing existence. It's an entire spectrum. Sure, I've been known to do yoga while watching several episodes of Sex And The City, but I've also gotten drunk as hell on whiskey in the woods of Missouri. I write poetry, but I also swear like a sailor. My brother once had a long discussion about the properties of being a man. We decided that he saw man as the hunter and I saw man as the poet. That's where it stands, I suppose.

And, in all honesty, the spectrum is so wide that I probably do lots of manly shit by default. But it's a lot more interesting (and manly?) to observe the differences than the similarities. From a distance, I can't imagine it'd be obvious that I own both Sleepless In Seattle AND You've Got Mail when I get all hammered-ass drunk on Jameson and threaten to kill everyone while cackling. It's just a strange balance being a man sometimes.

Ah well. Whatever. Grant went with me to Bed, Bath & Beyond last night so I could buy pillows. And guess what? Bed, Bath & Beyond was totally amazing!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Old Flames II: Salting Old Wounds In The Desert

I was halfway to Mexico when I called my mother from a bar pay phone. She let me know that the woods were on fire and I had best flee the country. All fire stops at borders, she told me.

"Thank God we believe in crossin' 'em," I said, spitting tobacco and wiping my chin. "Right, boys?"

Two amigos stepped outta the white Cadillac backseat, sifting through the desert wind and gripping Spanish pistols. This is the land where we come to build angels. Yet this be the pale grim grin of the Devil's teeth, raised of mountains and sunk with bullets.

"One more notch on your belt buckle, Johnny," one ghastly voice will bellow from the Heavens.

And one more song will play, sounding like gun blasts and dynamite lights. Bring out the mariachi band to play us this ballad. Revere the guitars, savor the taste and beg for mercy.

That should've been the end. It truly should've been. But where would the story keep if not spoil in this box without a closed door? So, perk up those ears, this is and was the truth.

I grinded my teeth and cursed my cast bones. This here is a last chance. But, then again, every chance is a last chance. How do you know you're always gonna make it out? There be gangsters and mobsters out there, chums. Slip up the accent and they'll grind your old battle wounds up for soup to feed the prisoners.

So, here, with this desert rough, where castles lay in the sky, a view comes with tears as rain. It's just one more storm to bare, you'll pray, and wait for the gods in a parade of self-pity and self-worth.

Now, what if you just turned up the stereo and hit the gas pedal?

These stories are always better.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Old Flames I: The Highway Season

There was a season of highways once. Twas the rainiest, dirtiest, funniest days of our time; peculiar indeed. We cackled lightning and belly-laughed thunderstorms. What god left us this wasteland of roads, with one utopia after another, always one more oasis dying in the breeze of the distance, we'll never know.

We wailed guitars out in the fields that gave us tornadoes. We wept in the great plains of a dying breath country. We bested our kin in the stretch of a foot race. We swam in rivers, we smoked on porches and we laughed everywhere. We had diaries of dreams and journals of jokes. We watched fireflies spend the summer with us, we sipped liquor with mint snd we heard the world spin its slow, heavy grind.

There were rocking chairs, long sunsets and enough fireworks to keep the great conversation of this nation burning. What was this country becoming? We all wondered that Fourth of July, looking up at the black disappearing in the ghostly parade of the sky. But all we came up with was more backyard dinner parties.

So, when the country settled, what did we have? We had the shoeboxes of letters, the albums of photos and the etched memories of lost causes and lofty effects.

But it all started with a car speeding down the spine of this country. It all started with a joke taken too seriously that ended up having a killer punchline. It all started when someone loved something more than something else.

And it gave us all a long history of escape artists.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bathtime vs. Playtime

I was at Target today with my brother, buying things for my relatively new bathroom. Holding a bath towel, I asked him his opinion of two different soap dishes. He pointed at the bronze one and I nodded, spacing out at a dozen different soap dishes on the shelves in front of me, and all I could say was, "Holy shit, remember when we used to come here to buy toys?"

Age gets you in the strangest moments sometimes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Disheartening MILF

You know what's disheartening? Driving and seeing a hot-ass MILF flag you down and naturally assuming she wants to find out what you're doing around midnight, but then realizing she actually just wants you to slow the hell down right the fuck now so you don't run over her idiot kids.

Also, two questions: How did these kids score shirts that match the color of the sky at sunset? What kind of hot-ass MILF lets her kids wear said shirts at sunset in the middle of the street?


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jake's Stupid Day of Idiocy

5:15 a.m. - Jake's alarm goes off.

5:50 a.m. - Jake gets out of bed.

6:05 a.m. - Jake is on the road.

6:30 a.m. - Jake notices that his engine light is on.

6:31 a.m. - Jake notices his temperature gauge is past the H.

6:33 a.m. - Jake exits the 405 and pulls into a residential neighborhood to open his car's hood.

6:34 a.m. - Jake blames himself for not knowing cars better or generally at all.

6:35 a.m. - Jake recalls the folks at Jiffy Lube telling him that he might have a coolant leak about two months ago, though there haven't been signs or trouble since, so Jake didn't really do anything about it.

6:36 a.m. - Jake curses himself for never doing anything about it.

6:40 a.m. - Jake fills his radiator with coolant.

6:45 - Jake starts his car, only for it to rumble as his temperature gauge flies past the H once again. Jake opens a book and starts reading.

6:50 a.m. - Jake starts up car again with a slightly better sound, but then turns the car off and goes back to reading.

6:53 a.m. - Jake calls his father to ask what overheating a car is like. Jake's father doesn't pick up, so Jake leaves a voicemail and then goes back to reading.

6:55 a.m. - Jake gets out of the car and goes to check the engine again, but very quickly notices that the asphalt is covered in coolant.

6:56 a.m. - Jake decides that the people at Jiffy Lube were right about that whole coolant leak theory and goes back to reading.

7:10 a.m. - Jake texts work that his car has practically blown up and he will most likely be late.

7:20 a.m. - Jake's father calls him back, but Jake misses the call because he's standing on a stranger's lawn, sighing rather loudly to himself.

7:23 a.m. - Jake calls his father and leaves another message.

7:24 a.m. - Jake leans his against the steering wheel, continuously exhaling audible sighs.

7:45 a.m. - Jake's father calls him back and tells him what to do.

8:00 a.m. - After hoping everything would just fix itself if he kept doing nothing, Jake calls AAA.

8:10 a.m. - Jake becomes a member of AAA again after forgetting to renew the past two years.

8:15 - Tow truck is dispatched by AAA.

8:20 a.m. - Jake watches two kids leave a house for school and approaches the house to ask if he can use the restroom.

8:21 a.m. - Seeing as how nobody answered, Jake spends a full minute listening to someone shower, yet still hopes that the door will be answered. After a sense of creeperdom overcomes him, Jake flees the yard.

8:25 a.m. - Jake wonders if he has enough time to run to the nearby elementary school to use their restroom facilities, though the tow truck should be there by 8:35 a.m.

8:30 a.m. - Jake decides to go for it and jogs to the local grade school.

8:33 - After debating which is the office entrance for several minutes, Jake watches a tow truck drive by and sprints back to his car.

8:37 a.m. - Jake gets sound advice from AAA guru, who suggests Jake take his car to nearest AAA-approved auto shop. Jake agrees.

8:40 a.m. - Jake changes his mind and ignores sound advice, so he can pay $100 to drop car off at family friend mechanic he trusts.

8:41 a.m. - AAA guru decides Jake's an idiot and doesn't see any reason to further speak with him.

8:45 a.m. - Like a stupid low-budget comedy, the three wacky men (the gangly uninformed white twentysomething with the broken car, the older and wiser Philipino AAA tow truck guru and the near-30 Mexican nice guy driver learning the ropes) all pile into the tow truck bench seat and set off for adventure.

8:46 a.m. - Nice guy asks Jake if his full name is Jacob. To which, Jake shrugs and says, "Nah, just Jake. My parents hated the named Jacob for whatever crazy reason."

8:47 a.m. - Nice guy tells Jake he has a nice watch and then tells a story about how his girlfriend bought him a fake cool watch that broke within the week. Jake laughs and the two talk about Target watches while the AAA guru in the middle doesn't say a word.

8:55 a.m. - After several minutes of silence, Jake panics and asks how long they've worked for AAA. Nice guy says a year and guru says 14 years. No one talks to Jake for the rest of the drive.

9:20 a.m. - Jake and crew arrives at beloved mechanic. Jake asks how business is. Mechanic informs him, "It's good. I mean, you keep bringing me a lot of business."

9:21 a.m. - Jake realizes how much doctors and mechanics must love him.

9:30 a.m. - Jake's mother picks him up.

9:40 a.m. - Jake wakes his brother up, so he can borrow his car. Sleepy brother agrees.

9:45 a.m.- Jake notices how dirty his brother's car is, so he gives it a quick hose-down.

9:46 a.m. Jake carelessly throws the hose down to go turn it off, but said hose lands on the ground with the push-handle down and the spout up, suddenly spraying Jake like a sprinkler. Jake yells and frantically dashes out of the water, as his mother, brother and dog watch speechlessly from the window.

9:47 a.m.- Jake sits in his brother's car with soaked pants and starts his drive to Los Angeles for the second time, arriving sometime around 11.