Monday, December 30, 2013

Jake Kilroy's 2013 Radical Year In Reading

I love end-of-the-year best-of lists. I like them for music, movies, babes you noticed at the local Chipotle, whatever. And my favorite is when friends' do it, because there's a 90% chance it's going to be less snooty and more excitable than critics. My main bag is reading, so that's what I bring to the table around new year's. The problem is that I jump around when it comes to what's on the shelves, so my annual end-of-the-year best-of sorts it out from what I read this year, not what came out this year.

Anyway, here are the best of the books, graphic novels, and audiobooks I took into my mangled brain in 2013! Woo!

1. Freedom
by Jonathan Franzen
For some reason, it's a stunning achievement to make fiction real, and this had the precision of a daily sharpened blade. It wasn't always enjoyable, as life can often prove uneasy, but I had to know if The Corrections was a fluke. It wasn't. This book was just as vivid and huge and beautiful and infuriating (with even less likable characters, really). Just another American family from the midwest, afraid of everything and hungry for anything, simply trying to figure out one aspect of life after another, tripping over nostalgia and desire.

2. Bluebeard
by Kurt Vonnegut
In every work by Vonnegut, there's comedy in the tragedy, no matter how big or small. There's a tone of whimsical shrugging, even when life is explained as one big terrible impractical joke. It's never worked better than in this "autobiography" of the artist Rabo Karabekian, who has an item locked up in his barn that he doesn't feel compelled to show the world. It's absolutely gorgeous.

3. The Subtle Knife / The Amber Spyglass
by Philip Pullman
This series had a pretty wild start with The Golden Compass, but part two and part three of His Dark Materials go for the weird dark madness of kid's imagination and adult-shaped reality. It's atheist mutiny along several worlds (including the land of the dead) that the good folks and bad people are leaping in and out of. The series expects the best of its young characters as well as its young adult readers, and it's one of the most articulate, intelligent young adult series ever. And it's kick-ass fantasy.

4. Live By Night
by Dennis Lehane
In this semi-sequel to one of my favorite books, The Given Day, the youngest member of the Boston cop family, The Coughlins, starts out on his own in the petty crime world as everything goes full swing into the Jazz Age. After getting mixed up with a few bruisers and dames, he takes on the grand, beautiful, illustrious world of Cuba and becomes a benevolent king of the whiskey trade during Prohibition. It doesn't romanticize anything, and it doesn't go over the top with grit. Tremendous.

5. The Garden of Eden
by Ernest Hemingway
It's hard to believe Hemingway wrote this character-driven sexy game. It's about a honeymooning couple that gets involved with a French girl, both in lust with her. Released more than 20 years after his death, after he worked on it for the last 15 years of his life, Hemingway's classic prose is present, along with his borderline poetic and hard-to-follow conversations, but it's unlike any of his other work. It's  wonderfully constructed by the hands of a writer who I assume was losing his grip at the time.

6. Slaughterhouse-Five
by Kurt Vonnegut
Yes, it took me way too long to finally read this book. If this had been my first Vonnegut, I would have a different opinion.  He cracks the jokes and he crafts the misery, and it's beautiful as always (though you can tell fine-tuning was coming in his technique). It's such a wonder how easy and impossible Vonnegut can make life seem simultaneously.

7. 1Q84
by Haruki Murakami
Even though it's one of the strangest sci-fi stories I've ever read, it's not too weird at all. The sci-fi is an element of a love story, but it's slow, meticulous character development instead. It's frustrating at times, since you want it to go big and wild with what's hinted at, but it sticks to the hearts and minds of two central characters accidentally wrapped up in another dimension of 1984.

8. Florence Of Arabia
by Christopher Buckley
A satire, this was among the first to joke about post-9/11 "war on terror and Islamist extremism." The main character, a CIA operative named Florence, travels to the fictional Middle Eastern country of Wasabia to start a women's television channel that suggests equality and pokes fun at male-established power. It's intended to start a culture revolution, but it spins out of control into cultural anarchy.

9. Eragon
by Christopher Paolini
An epic was written by a 15-year-old who understood the elements of good old school fantasy, it legitimately has everything you need or expect from an alternate medieval tale of dragons, wizards, trolls, rogues, and everything in between. It's strong, but it never gets brutal. It hits the spot if you're looking for the most thorough collection of medieval fantasy traits in one series.

10. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
by David Mitchell
This is a gorgeous book, but not because of the story or the narrative. It's actually because of what the book allows you to do on your own. A single sentence about a water drop on a leaf in a Japanese garden gives you an entire scene. It's breathtaking, but it's also tedious as hell for some of the first two-thirds. This book takes patience. The last third is perfect, but the first two acts are a bit slow-going and gives you significantly more than you need to follow the events of late 18th/early 19th Century Japan with employees of the Dutch East Indies settling themselves in and figuring out a new culture.

1. Saga
by Brian K. Vaughn
It straight up feels like a wilder take on Star Wars with sex and swear words. But it's never gimmicky. It has touches of Firefly and Game Of Thrones, and it gives the story all the room it needs to be breathe.  Snarky and wise-ass romantic dude with ram horns and a brutal sword marries an honorable ex-soldier babe with the look of a punk and the wings of a fairy. Fairy has their lovechild, and the two lovebirds are on the run from just about everyone in the universe. This story could legitimately go in any and every direction, and I'm beyond stoked.

2. Top Ten
by Alan Moore
Alan Moore created a city where every single person is a superhero or supervillain, from movie stars to bums. They take the subway, they have day jobs, they have special powers, and they're always wearing costumes. This series follows a particular precinct as they battle radioactive drug dealers and alien prostitute serial killers. It's all so nuts, but the characters are human and complex and surprisingly real.

3. Morning Glories
by Nick Spencer
Described as "Lost at a boarding school," it has all the potential to learn from its predecessors. And if it doesn't, I'm going to lose my mind. If it does, it could be one of my all-time favorites. It's also crazy violent. I guess it's more like Lost meets Hunger Games meets The Faculty meets Archie in a way.

by Jeff Smith
As Smith's Bone has gone down as one of my absolute favorite things ever, I bought volume one of this series on a whim. Turns out it's fantastic, and it's done with bare-bone dialogue and a very small story with a huge sense of history. Former young scientist uses the Tesla's lesser known technology to drift between worlds and steal art to pay for his revenge plan. Yup.

5. JLA
by Grant Morrison
This series crafts these long-known superheroes as their most ideal and definable. It makes each member of the Justice League vivid and concrete. They have motivations, hesitations, and regrets. It's the strongest, most legit version of everyone.

*Special Shout-Out*
I read the entire DC Crisis storyline this year, from Crisis On Infinite Earths to Final Crisis, along with all of their lead-ups. That shit's too hard to gauge or even coherently explain, considering all of it being one massive clusterfuck of every hero and villain ever in the DC multiverse. It's a hell of a time though. I suggest you dive into that madness if you want to understand how DC's universe of characters (Batman, Superman, etc) exist in different variations of past, present, and future. It's not always great, and it almost never makes total sense.

1Identity Crisis
by Brad Metzler
This is what happens when you give a political thriller author a chance to fully embrace graphic novels and get buckwild with it. You get a murder mystery story with the Justice League that doesn't seem silly. It's personal and emotional, and it focuses on history and human interaction instead of anything super.

2. The Joker: Death Of The Family
by Various Authors
After a year-long disappearance, Joker returns more gnarly than ever (cutting off his own face and wearing it as a mask, for starters) to bring individual and very personal trauma to each member of the Bat Family to show how they slow down his beloved Batman. It's dirty and violent, with Joker showing what real insanity is (where murder is indistinguishable from a handshake).

3. Batman: The Black Mirror
by Scott Snyder
This made me feel so weird. In it, Commissioner Gordon's unhinged son is an all grown up serial killer taunting and teasing the Gordon family. It's tightly written and uncomfortable at every turn, and it's pacing and character vulnerability are on-point.

4. Batman: The Court Of Owls & The City Of Owls
by Scott Snyder
It's hard to do something new in a well-known history, but the whole Court of Owls rhyme/legend is slipped in the Gotham mythos so perfectly, it reads as if it was always there. It's a finely tuned Batman working with a fresh, exceptional history of his surroundings and the men that build the doomed city.

5. The Silencers: Black Kiss
by Fred Van Lente and Steve Ellis
A semi-comic story about villains, it makes it all seem plausible within the realm of superheroes (who they refer to as "The Tights"). You never see heroes beyond their arms and legs, but you get the evil-doers in all of their human glory, with the criminal leader, Cardinal, trying to retire and make a quiet life for himself.

1. What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire
by Charles Bukowski
After enough Bukowski, a reader can anticipate him. He gambles at the horse tracks, he's always involved in some weird relationship with a woman that reeks of desperation, he can't stand the upstarts, he acknowledges his fame, he listens to classical music, he watches the city breathe, sure. But as the list grows longer, it becomes this breathtaking observation of everything and nothing. It's an astounding belief that life can be documented and detailed in poetry. He'll write about the grocery store, he'll write about dinner parties, he'll write about writing. I've read a lot of him, and this long-ass collection was the first time it felt like a conversation with the great poet laureate scoundrel.

2. Barrel Fever
by David Sedaris
This was a rare instance of reading a style that I tried to do when I was young. These were just absurd stories of things going wrong for people, and it made me laugh. Sure, short stories can be a powerful, moving, extraordinary medium...but they can also be great for nonsense. A collection of ridiculous premises (one actor's several-page-long Oscar speech, a mother/wife falling apart in a holiday newsletter, etc) that are articulate and well-crafted, so the silliness shines through as a glorious fiction.

3. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
This was more societal causes and effects than anything else really: how abortion in the '70s caused a decrease in crime in the '90s, how real estate agents go about selling their houses versus selling other people's homes, et cetera. It gets convoluted at times, and there's an air of "this is the real truth" when, in some cases, it seems like that's the entire argument against previous theories. It just doesn't carry the brute arrogance. Instead, it makes me appreciate data for being the truth-sayer it's always been and will always continue to be, boiling it all down to fun, wild, and accessible knowledge.

4. Wake Up: A Life Of The Buddha
by Jack Kerouac
As a total surprise to me, Kerouac wrote a true book about the life of Buddha. It's not jivey or jokey either. It's his retelling of Siddhartha Gautama and how he became the Enlightened One. It goes over concepts as part of the narrative, its dialogue is vibrantly religious, and it's a wildly good take on spirituality in general.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To Believe In, Or At Least Be Aware Of, Hope

"To Believe In, Or At Least Be Aware Of, Hope"
An essay considering the direction of the Western World, prompted by Pope Francis being named Time Magazine's Person Of The Year.
by Jake Kilroy

I wrote this because I can think and write. I have no expertise in anything covered. My depth of understanding with religion is along the lines of reading a drive-thru menu to say, yeah, sure, I get food. Also, nobody has ever hired me to muse on hope or speak on what drives mankind. I am, however, particularly good at existing and, hey, sometimes observing. And once I started writing this, it was hard to stop.

I'm not kidding. This thing is long.


I'm not saying this church or this world, or any church or any world, is perfect.

But, damnit, you have to acknowledge progress when it's apparent. We rightfully celebrate the progress of each and every civil rights movement, even though racism, sexism, homophobia, and class warfare still exist. It would be unfair to deem them as inherently old world problems, but it's just as unfair to dismiss the progress made in each category to rally the cries of a problem-infested new world. You need to do both, because one way is ignorance and the other is belligerence.

Hope, despite its luminous and gorgeous pull of the heart, is a tricky business. And I can only figure it as one part "you" and one part "everything else." It's a crazy balance of perspective vs. reality and expectations vs. outcomes. Hope can be the spark of man-made miracles, but it can be the cause of emptiness, because it provides a future that might not ever be.

Investing your hope in a stranger comes with its fair share of helplessness. You devote an attitude to a person that you can have no direct influence on, and you believe in a majesty to come that you can't quite control. I did it with Obama in 2008, and while I've been impressed with a lot that he's done, it's brought on quiet fury and embarrassment for the things I've been disappointed and disgusted with, which are just as, if not more, plentiful.

Throughout my adult life, I've paid good attention, though little mind, to Time Magazine's "Person Of The Year." And while I get sick of the feedback it rouses because many people, for whatever reason, still don't understand that it's who was responsible for the most impact, whether good or bad, I don't always agree with it. Their more abstract selections are equally brilliant (2011: "The Protestor") and lazy (2006: "You"), I think their regular decision to include American presidents is the laziest. Also, and it's been rightfully argued for years, there's a spectacular lack of women on the roster. I mean, hell, up until the late '90s, it was "Man Of The Year."

This year, the magazine chose Pope Francis, and he's been a fascinating character to enter the global scene.

Time's managing editor Nancy Gibbs explained the magazine’s choice, explaining:

"The heart is a strong muscle; he’s proposing a rigorous exercise plan. And in a very short time, a vast, global, ecumenical audience has shown a hunger to follow him. For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest faith to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year."

Pope Francis has given me hope, but not as a member of the church.

I was raised in a house of manners, mercy, and gratefulness, but not religion. Well, for the most part, that's true. When I was a kid, my father led sporadic but mandatory "Sunday meetings" in the living room. In them, my dad would have a main lesson, which ranged from him retelling a story about stealing from high school to him explaining how to balance a check book, and then he'd read a story from the Bible and tell us how to be a "strong, healthy, confident adult" with an open mind.

My mom and dad are of the same ideal: God, but not necessarily religion.

From that, I took goodwill and appreciation as motives and guidance. I tend to lean atheist though, but because I've always had an overactive imagination, I keep thinking a god of some kind may very well exist. People question this further, but I can only clarify it as, "It's like how I wouldn't wander through a haunted house alone, even though I don't really believe in ghosts." I fear what I'm capable of considering, not what I think exists or doesn't.

To put it bluntly, my religious views fall into a category that has most aptly been articulated by the series Community:
  • "Agnosticism is the lazy man's atheist." - Pierce Hawthorne
  • "As an agnostic, I plan on bringing my winning smile." - Jeff Winger
I love what good people get out of religion, but when it's used without intelligence or justice, it's unfathomable to me why people invest their time in organized and perpetual madness and delirium. I've seen religion make reasonably intelligent individuals total, absolute, uninformed bigots, and, on the total and absolute other hand, I have seen religion motivate not-too-well-off people be charitable far beyond their means.

No church is alike, and no follower of any god is the same. It's important to keep that in mind, because making sweeping generalizations about belief systems isn't always the most efficient use of your time.

When I was a teenager, I thought it was stupid and whiny of adults to complain about the world changing for the worst. Now, as an adult with a Twitter-feed of news organizations, I sometimes find it spectacularly easy to think that. The world has always been dangerous. It's always been scary. What changes is where and how the fear comes.

This is why it's become so important to me to acknowledge progress and rally behind hope.

Negativity, for whatever reason, tastes good. Maybe because it's forbidden. But it's not forbidden in the tantalizing sense (like your private browser history). It's forbidden in the way that you can't just take the stuff you don't need out of your closet and huck it out the window. Because guess what? Nobody cleans that shit up.

We have a problem in this country that focuses too much on belittling both grief as well as joy. The old excuse was the media. The new excuse is social media. A gif of two very different people hugging should not restore your faith in humanity, but these small acts should at least reaffirm it. With easily accessible sites to present you with the warm vibes (Buzzfeed, Upworthy, etc), it's easy to lose sight of the big picture to focus your attention on the good, small distractions.

Whereas years ago, I felt like the Ann Coulters of the world were winning the war on, well, I don't even know what to call it, I've lately felt that being close-minded is starting ease out of style. It won't ever go away, and it's pretty impossible to cite how or why I can even make that claim. I like that conservatives (in general, not specifically political) are reevaluating conversational strategy, and I like that liberals are reevaluating just what it is they're even pursuing (again, in general, not specifically political).

I'm taking Pope Francis as a sign of change, and I find it thrilling.

Now, there are people in epic numbers working harder than him to ensure a more ideal future. There are authority figures in this city/county/state/country/world that are fighting for a better world, that are protesting for an ideal humanity, that are promoting the best of us as a species. And they'll go unnoticed. And humility will remain a bewilderingly triumphant quality.

But the focus here is Pope Francis as a token of "could be."

James Carroll of The New Yorker did a way better job than I ever could with his article Who Am I To Judge? - A Radical Pope's First Year.

Carroll writes, "Who am I to judge? With those five words, spoken in late July in reply to a reporter’s question about the status of gay priests in the Church, Pope Francis stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of Popes and bishops. This gesture of openness, which startled the Catholic world, would prove not to be an isolated event."

And it's true. The man has rejected tradition. In fact, he's done good just by setting an example that hasn't really been there before:
  • He lives in a two-room apartment instead of the palace.
  • He wears worn shoes instead of the traditional fancy footwear.
  • Rumor has it that he sneaks into the city to help and talk with the poor, as he did when he was in Argentina.
Now, to those of us without any Catholic power, it may seem obvious and already be a routine to wear beat-up shoes and not be an asshole. But we're talking about a man who just shrugged off centuries of furrowed brows and closed minds. It's important to remember that.

It was a big deal for Obama to support same-sex marriage because of what came before. Supporting same-sex marriage, to me and many, is a no-brainer. But it mattered because he was the first sitting president to do so. Other countries have female presidents and prime ministers. It shouldn't be a big deal in America when we finally vote ours in, only by the standards of proposed and assumed equality, but it most definitely will be (and it most definitely should be) because of what's come before: all men. It's a matter of perspective, and it changes everything.

So what matters here is progress, not perfection.

Pope Francis is not a LGBT advocate, and Michelangelo Signorile said it better in his Huffington Post article No, Pope Francis is Not the LGBT Person of the Year.

The title of that article comes from The Advocate naming him as their "Person Of The Year." On the cover, it featured a photoshopped picture of the pope with a NOH8 face sticker and that infamous quote, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"

Explaining it, while properly awarding praise to Edith Windsor as well, Lucas Grindley wrote:

"Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference. Sure, we all know Catholics who fudge on the religion's rules about morality. There's a lot of disagreement, about the role of women, about contraception, and more. But none of that should lead us to underestimate any pope's capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT people, and not only in the U.S. but globally."

He was also responsible for the 84-page blasting of greed, and to a lesser extent, capitalism itself, "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)." As you may recall, Rush Limbaugh deemed "pure marxism," so you know it's good.

Limbaugh wasn't the only one. Hearing this, Pope Francis responded, "The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended."

I guess what I like most about the guy is that it's not robotic dogma. I've always found much of the speeches by popes to be repetitive and dramatic bullshit. This pope is mellow and reasonable, but, most importantly, his logic of thought is approachable.

With this, when unfavorable topics pop up, (women's role in the church, the rights of the LGBT community, etc), he sidesteps them with a cautious manner and a gentle spirit. This is one of those times I'd like to enlist the harpy tone of the idealist to say that these shouldn't be sidestepped, but, again, I feel compelled to call attention to past progress while admiring future hopes. However, these issues should be acknowledged.In step with, or in favor of, progress, my favorite quotes from Pope Francis (written and spoken):
  • "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."
  • "We must try to facilitate people’s faith, rather than control it. Last year, in Argentina I condemned the attitude of some priests who did not baptize the children of unmarried mothers. This is a sick mentality."
  • "As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems."
Now, while it's good to point out hope and change, it's necessary to know where the differences are. Pope Francis and I don't agree on abortion or marijuana by a long-shot. And, to be clear, Pope Francis and I aren't even close to the same page when it comes to women's role in the church and the rights for same-sex marriage. He's not a rousing advocate for equality, but he is creating a dialogue that I haven't seen in the church my whole life.

That, I suppose, is the difference, and it is a big one.

It's what drove me to write this. Just having the church open up a bit after keeping the smug, stale tightness of a shut-up tomb was enough to be inspired to dream of what may lay ahead.

Here's to the (better) future and the wonderful, terrifying, beautiful, epic, wild, tragic, amazing, crazy, awesome thing that is hope.

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Wrote Another (Obnoxious) Craigslist Ad

My dear friend Ashley is moving across the country, and she very generously allowed me to write the Craigslist ad for her exquisite bedroom furniture. The best part is that she said I could write whatever I wanted. So I did.

Four Piece Bedroom Set to Classy Home - $700

Oh, good. You finally decided to get rid of that cheap-ass furniture that only ever impressed your college drug dealer.

Well, buckle up your panties or boxer briefs, because I've got real mature furniture for you to arrange in a way that will let your future rotating front door of hunks and/or babes just keep sparking like you have a teleporter connected to that martini bar you can't afford.

I mean, I get it. You spent your twenties drunk on Popov, watching reruns of Scrubs.

Sure, over the years, between swearing off Jager and reiterating everything you read on Reddit to people who aren't on Reddit, you collected furniture from parents, friends, garage sales, and maybe even that former flame who wouldn't see your cousin's artsy noise band. I get it. You have a "set" of furniture if your interior decorator was Pee-Wee Herman.

But, now, here you are in the dying twilight of your youth, holding authority over an empire of unframed posters and stickers on your window. Yet something has changed. A lightness has come to you, and you're surprisingly not high.

You've finally realized that, now that you're slowly and strangely creeping up to the age of 30 like the westside strangler, it's dawning on you that, holy shit, I should have furniture that doesn't make it seem like I still grope homecoming royalty in the backseat of a borrowed car.

You want furniture that screams you know how to use commas and that you're aware half of the inspirational quotes on Pinterest don't even make sense.

Well, guess what? I've got furniture to change all that. I'm selling four pieces of bedroom furniture that are basically tuxedos and ball gowns you can't wear.

Here's what I have to save your I-never-got-over-the-90s ass:
  • A NIGHT TABLE for you to stash Russian literature instead of your accidental collection of used condoms.
  • A BED that would impress every member of The Fellowship Of The Ring with its beautifully crafted wood and elegant-as-glass-titties iron work.
  • A WARDROBE that would make both the lion and the witch as wrathfully jealous as Steve Guttenberg rewatching his VHS copy of Three Men And A Little Lady.
  • A DRESSER WITH A MIRROR that's made for easy transport, just like you in all those limousines you can now expect to see in your driveway.
These pieces were made from the finest of oak trees, which I have to imagine were immediately replanted because whoever made these was capable of the greatest love for both mankind and Mother Earth.

These pieces were also expensive, but I'm selling them all for ONLY $700 because I'm moving across the country. Shit, I'd tell you where, but now that you know how fine my taste in furniture is, you'll want to date me, and, hey, I've already got a phone full of potential husbands BECAUSE of this furniture.

Get these while they're hot.

Just kidding.

They'll always be hot.

Call me.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Manboy & Boss: An Excerpt

Author's Note: The characters of Manboy and Boss were created by Chase Menen ("Manboy") and Chase Ruiz ("Boss"). This piece was intended for a radio show interview with Jake Kilroy and Scott Barman that never materialized.

The following is an excerpt from "Chapter 14: The Mean Ol' Jungles Of India," from the soon-to-be-published autobiography Manboy & Boss.

“Boss, I think I have jungle fever,” Manboy croaked.

Now, in my heyday, I was quite a ladies man, often bopping with the best of the players, so I naturally assumed he meant he was after the chocolate babes. As it turns out, jungle fever is what the locals called getting a fever in the jungle, which, granted, makes more sense.

After several confusing moments of Manboy making choking motions and me bustling through my mental rolodex in the game of what I presumed to be charades (“Halle Berry? Beyonce? Rosario Dawson?" I bellowed, though, to be fair, the latter is a halfie), I finally realized my beautiful mocha man was dying beneath a canopy of birds that truly, no matter how many rocks I hit them with, wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

“Manboy!” I cried, hoping my face wouldn't become the waterfall I knew it could be, though, honestly, I hadn't cried since the ending of Hellboy.

My dear assistant, who had come to save my life on several occasions (including repeated instances of me falling overboard), was now asking – nay, begging – for me to return the favor. His face darkened as he made frantic motions that I believed to be obscene. As I considered fulfilling Manboy’s strange last request of indecently pleasing him, it became quite obvious that he was, in fact, mimicking the action of a hypodermic needle in his satchel.

In his bag, I found the needle, but not after rooting through Manboy’s other belongings, which included several bananas, a pouch of opiates, two severed yet preserved monkey hand-wands, and a surprisingly pristine copy of the novella Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Taking the medical instruction I received from that one Pulp Fiction scene, I jammed the needle into Manboy’s chest, a move that he later explained nearly killed him, since I was only supposed to treat it like a vaccine shot. He gave me a book of medicine the following Christmas, an item I’ve come to cherish but have never so much as glanced at. Sorry, Manboy, those Dan Brown epics aren’t going to reread themselves.

Once the medicine coursed through his lanky, dark body, Manboy sprung up, alive and excited. He hugged me, visibly grateful for my saving his life, though, due to the manner that I injected him with the medicine, he immediately complained of chest pains and collapsed.

When he awoke a day later in what I thought was a dilapidated hospital but turned out to be an upscale roadside café, Manboy said, “Boss, you are good man.”

To which, I answered, “And you are a good Manboy,” and then patted him on the head.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"i drank cleopatra's bath water"

"i drank cleopatra's bath water"
bastardized and baptized by jake kilroy.

i drank cleopatra's bath water,
and it tasted of cobra's blood and wine,
a shaky cocktail to take down to destroy
every empire between the head and the heart.

hot damn, goddamn, i pulled scripture out of my mouth,
like a magic trick gone rotten from resting too long in death.
i coughed up what sand wasn't used to cover the past,
where the statues were buried neck-high to show god a thing or two.
what a caravan it was to witness the long march of lovers,
wasting away in memory, distant yet warm still,
from here, a throne, immobile and arrogant!

grief took us thentook us apartstruck a match against our bones,
and we were suddenly nothing without every indulgence imaginable.
i would've swallowed swords if i had known the taste of battle,
but i could only play my ribs like a poor man's percussion,
and the marching band had been sentenced to a long life of doldrums.

i wanted her then, a fiery queen that was a pain in the asp,
telling jokes like a jester but making love like her king;
just one that wouldn't tell her to calm down, but conquer instead.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Suffering

"Is there another life? Shall I awake and find all this a dream? There must be. We cannot be created for this sort of suffering."
- John Keats

Friday, November 15, 2013


There's a dirty laundry list of reasons to lose faith in the world. Truly. But, man, what's happening with Batkid in San Francisco right now is one of the best examples of humanity I've ever witnessed. You will always find saints in charity and heroes in disasters, but I've never seen 10,000+ people participate in one kid's dream of fighting evil alongside Batman. Social media and the news are blowing up with good vibes. People are goooooood.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Would I Say?

I'm looking to start doing poetry readings semi-regularly (and finally going to one tonight after a year-long absence). But as I recite and rehearse selected poems of mine on the way to work, I notice what words I reuse. It’s hard to see it when you look at one poem here and there, but when I do them one after another, I notice themes such as:
  • Breaths and the process of breathing (gasping, catching air, etc)
  • Religious imagery (angels, demons, scripture, etc)
  • Mildly violent actions as part of metaphors and similes (beating, dragging, etc)
  • Body parts (heart, brain, gut, hips, fingers, etc)
  • Death (graves, last meal, etc)
There's a great deal more, but that's what I immediately recall from my drive this morning. We repeat ourselves because there can only be so much that truly fascinates us or resonates with us. And with poetry's fractured, almost nonsensical, and rambling persuasion, it's very easy to get how your mind works in scope of the world. Poetry is honest because it's borderline gibberish.

And it took me forever to realize there was a time and a place for it.

I remember seeing my friend Katy years ago after a long absence of catching up. At some point, she told me, “It’s hard to tell what you’re up to these days.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Your status updates are always like, ‘Whiskey stars in the night sky, and the land shakes, and what beauty is here blah blah blah.’ Why can’t you just tell me you’re going to Taco Bell and buying new sheets?”

“Huh,” I mused, because she was right.

I used to use social media as a way of disguising the truth. Well, shit, not even disguising it. It was more, HEY, LOOK AT ME, I OBVIOUSLY CONSIDER MYSELF A WRITER. And when she pointed it out, I realized how unnecessary it was to "pretty up" the mundane.

You should be poetic if you like to be, but you need to know the proper outlets because it's really, really easy to be a fuckin' douche if you enjoy writing and don't think what you write is dog shit.

When I went to Australia for 3 weeks at the age of 19, I sent postcards home to my friends Jeff, Rex, and Chase. They all agreed that my postcards should be more like other people's postcards. I was writing poetic musings about travel (BECAUSE I WAS OH-SO-FUCKING-CLEVER) on the back of them, and they, like Katy, asked me why I couldn’t just tell them what I was seeing, what I was eating, what I was doing. Chase told me, “I legitimately have no idea what you did on your trip because all your postcard talked about was the fuckin’ traveling bug.”

And I used to do this all the time. When I was planning my high school reunion earlier this year, I went through friends’ yearbooks, and I noticed that I had written some poetic musing about the future and what lay ahead and what it all meant in all my friends' yearbooks (BECAUSE I WAS OH-TOO-FUCKING-HIP TO TELL EVERYONE HOW MUCH I ENJOYED GOING TO SCHOOL WITH THEM AND I HOPED THEY HAD A GOOD SUMMER AND/OR LIFE).

The reason I always did this was because I wanted to create tokens of memory. I wanted to give people something they could keep for its timeless quality and ethereal value. I took a shot at how I thought nostalgia worked and anticipated what we would believe is important. Now that I’m edging up to the ripe age of 30, I realize that it doesn’t matter and you can’t call it out early. You have no idea what you'll really hold close to you about your youth or your adolescence or your young adulthood.

Now, since signing those yearbooks, I make my cards or notes thoughtful, direct, and personal.

Since talking with the droogs, I make my postcards lush, truthful, and joyous.

Since talking with Katy, I make my social media updates what they should be: an honest account of who I am and what's happening. That obviously includes jokes and swear words, but it doesn't have to be poetically vague.

So, when I stumbled upon the site What Would I Say? (kudos to Jackie and Bram), I was naturally curious to see the mashup of Facebook status updates. That's what it does. It takes all of the things you've posted on Facebook and tries to guess what a possible status update would be for you. Most of the time, it doesn't make sense at all (try "Halloween the ground. Or ruined something they loved. Juli for December 3, book cover every day").

But, here and there, it really nails you, and you wonder about things you've said and treasured in the past. I've listed some of my favorites below. But, just so it didn't read as kooky (and was more about the order of words), I've corrected capital letters and punctuation.

Here are some small ones that I assembled into a poem:
  • What, you're just a pirate.
  • Fleeing town once again.
  • I'll gamble the talking.
  • Rough draft for them.
  • Without days of things.
  • You have any girl ever.
  • So I can feel it.
  • For an open mind?
  • After years and years of learning.
  • I ended on a bender.
And here are some that I just thought were funny or wild:
  • Work was the villain in a mediocre view.
  • I feel like the kids from American Graffiti art.
  • Twas totally weird, twas totally sick too.
  • Erin, give me bruises? Remember those puppies at the Fortress House?
  • It's like Disneyland for adults; what a long, hot shower.
  • I'm obviously having fun, all the raddest things
  • It's like a lion using an antelope, as my words have blurred together in value.
  • Reading Ayn Rand and wondering if she is so hard.
  • I want to clarify, I would watch the destruction in that day.
  • It was a guitar. Sometimes, a perfume.
  • And it's just enough pain for journalists to do.
  • Murder is on my soul in no way.
  • No way, I'm going to go barhopping in the last revolution I tried.
  • Off of lust and fucking on repeat for thirty minutes before I call it.
And then there was this one, which I didn't have to adjust a single thing for:
  • Lauren, darling, I need somebody who is more ready to drink.
Truer words were never spoken, website version of old me. I guess poetry isn't that hard.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Idiot Culture

"We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot subculture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal."
- Carl Bernstein

Monday, November 4, 2013

"if truth was here and now and not forever"

"if truth was here and now and not forever"
written after the last weekend of wonder by jake kilroy.

glory never loves those who don't give everything they have.
splintered hands, knuckled heads, all the leg work exhausted;
we are youth, even in old age.

walls of scripture pages, crosses on every lamp,
sheets that covered the pews of empty churches
now clinging to every bed at night on solstice,
here we are in the house we grew up in,
haunted by what might have never been there.

fists through the glass, fingers in the dirt,
i couldn't swallow my pride for that last meal.
jesus christ wouldn't know what to beg for these days.

and here all we wanted was reverb shaking the local jails
that hold the bands of folksingers we worshipped,
years ago when we thought god had built man
and not vice versa.

so give me false idols that'll actually talk back.
hold up the flames of these burial candles,
because this concert won't have an encore.
mass population, mass media,
mass words we can't speak,
ever since our tongues were tied
when we were speaking in them.

this is the tension of ghosts,
dragging blood through us,
carving muscles from memory,
unable to spill their guts
or tell the difference
between wishes and hopes.
dreams are another plague,
one without cure or ailment.

can we even speak truth anymore
without our eyes filling with salt?
stop repeating yourself.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"sweat in the eyes and hope in the heart"

"sweat in the eyes and hope in the heart"
written after good news for a bag of dirty bones by jake kilroy.

in your bedroom, i could taste the starlight abound,
washing it down with sweat, as we stretched ourselves thin,
letting our memories drift out of our pores to sparkle above.

we ate the past off paper moons.
we plucked the stars like fruit.
we reread pages from old notebooks,
because we wanted to know what we didn't know once.

this has been an endless lunar cycle,
passing through the glowing of your body,
bouncing off the curves of your hips,
tickling your thighs and bursting out your toes.

this was christmas breath coughing at the end of summer,
a barely audible hope cascading from the nerve-endings,
brilliant in each silent skip, gleefully swinging an ax.

all our hearts wanted was a new spinal path to trample
with ecstasy and prowess and cautionary breadcrumbs.

spirits coming out of the muscle forests,
these shredded ambitions are yours.
my heart has always been a drunken hunter.
your bones are thrift store weathered.
we're the mailboxes americans only buy for nostalgia.
lucky charms swing in our eyes,
and we are nothing without a joke.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"come calling"

"come calling"
written after going back on his word by jake kilroy.

you can hear the chimes of your childhood haunts,
serenading you, like an orchestral xylophone,
sounding like the silver lining of your daydreams,
clanging against the porch of your woodblock head,
where you've sat for the last few days, unmoved,
waiting for prayers to bloom like white roses for you.

the future was beautiful once, when it was framed,
unreachable, impossible, and desperately beloved.
now you're here, and you catch yourself
out of place in your own apartment shower,
listening to gerry mulligan and paul desmond
tell you to calm down and consider sobriety.

you were smarter when you were younger.
you were better before you had a chance.
you were everything you had always
hoped to be at the stupid age of 10.

now you're up a creek, caught between sayings,
and you're still not sure, even after all this,
following years of mistakes and miseries,
if you'd trade places with the kid.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jake Kilroy, Professional Movie Extra

Professional movie extra Jake Kilroy can expertly play:
  • Tall guy trying out for play but does poor job acting; utilized best in humorous throwaway montages to prove comparable talent of main character.
  • Tall guy reading book in background while main characters have "meet-cute" by bumping heads in local bookstore; can look up.
  • Tall guy who crosses arms for various reason; includes pre-fight arguments and student/employee stand-offs with administrator/employer.
  • Shitty/deceased ex-boyfriend of female lead; only appears in pictures.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Three Songs I Wrote

This is old news to the blog, but I posted three songs I did a while back on Facebook for the first time, so I'm keeping a record of it here too.

In 2010, I released an EP called Great Western Skies (which, as you've figured out by now, was just a burned CD and cut-out pieces of paper). It had four songs, an it was pretty darn fun, even though I can't really sing or play guitar all that well. I worked on a follow-up of four more songs, and it's been left undone for going on three years.

Well, one of the songs has actually been near completion for a while. It's kind of inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes ("Autumn Magician"). Maybe, one day, I'll finish the other three songs, release another EP, and mail it to you. But, until then, I recorded two other songs last year, one when I accidentally got drunk in the ol' basement with Grant, who wrote and read poetry on the spot ("Darling") and one when I stayed home sick with a supremely wild fever and tried to learn Ritchie Valens ("Olly Olly Oxen Free").

The songs can be heard here:

And the lyrics can be read here:

"Autumn Magician"
by Jake Kilroy

Hey, autumn magician, when will the spooky winds come?
I've got questions for pagan gods
about youth, nostalgia and love,
and I'll ask them without
jokes, poetry, sarcasm, threats or irony.

Which rituals do you think involve broken hearts and lovers' blood?
What spells do we try to make ourselves in basements and backyards?

Memories are like old movies,
playing on a rusty projector
until it's just you, cold and asleep,
in the empty theater.

Think of carnivals and tattoos,
and wonder which better represents you.
You can't have both, which you probably know,
sustaining some laughter and growth.

Which rituals do you think involve broken hearts and lovers' blood?
What spells do we try to make ourselves in basements and backyards?

Surely, you've tasted the salt of summer skin,
just to spit it up after too much rum
that went straight to your new autumn head
as you were finding balance in a winter bed.

Which rituals do you think involve broken hearts and lovers' blood?
What spells do we try to make ourselves in basements and backyards?

by Jake Kilroy and Grant Brooks

It was the week I couldn't sleep.
You were out of town and the dog kept me company.
I slurred my words as I cooked with wine.
Sometimes, I can't stand this heart of mine.

Darling, I built a fire for you
with hands that do shadow puppets too
as well as hold candles, cup water, fix cars,
stir pasta, wash windows, and point out shooting stars.

Let me whisk you away
to the same fields that you grew battled up on.
Let me build us a house from the trees
that cracked during your favorite lightning storm.
Let me burn those bridges of friends
that forget your birthday every single year.
Let me mouth off to the men
who said you'd look good as someone else.

From the steeple I built in my room,
I prayed to myself for the answers to unasked questions.
I wrote about my hands shaking before,
and I wrote about my heart breaking as a kid.

But my eyes have grown weary of the lines in the road.
I'm having such a hard time finding way my home,
not that I ever had an idea of where that was.
I never raked the same yard twice.

I kissed girls on nights I should've stayed in,
and I shared glass bottles with friends
that were out looking for the same sea-lost ship.

I spent those early days like how a heavyweight
spends the hours leading up to a fight,
sleepless and wistful.

Give me the wood pirates. Give me the flower boats.
Give me the Holy Grail, filled with the blood of youth.
Smear it across my mouth like a clown grin.
Put me in a tux and tell me where the party is.

Let me whisk you away
to the same fields that you grew battled up on.
Let me build us a house from the trees
that cracked during your favorite lightning storm.
Let me burn those bridges of friends
that forget your birthday every single year.
Let me mouth off to the men
who said you'd look good as someone else.

"Olly Olly Oxen Free"
by Jake Kilroy

Roll out the red carpet tongue to lick wounds,
filled to the salt-encrusted brims with doom.
I've got a mouth of hot teeth laced with swears,
a throat graffitied with words like a junkie prayer.

But were gorgeous,
whistling dixie on the porch of America,
and me with my fever,
it just wasn't enough to remember you.

No more barley wine or royal bloodlines.
She told me that I had a smile like a jack knife.
I said, "Your black dress keeps me honest."
She said, "You act like you could keep a promise."

Hey, you.

Debutantes in mini skirts
that want to take a thrashing and give a beating,
they put their lips together and they whisper,
"Every charming man's renaissance is fleeting."

I'll never forget when I dressed well
and posed as a pioneer out on the rails.
When spring came, I pulled out my heart
and drank its insides so I wouldn't starve.

Hey, you.

Are we really looking for Christ at night
or do we just want a drinking partner that'll tip right?
Sing me a tune, precious atrium rib cage,
because we can't sleep and we won't change.

Hey, you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Mysterious Ride of Chase Menen

"The Mysterious Ride of Chase Menen"
the crucial account of the curious jack-of-all-trades Chase,
if it were hastily written by Neil Gaiman.
by Jake Kilroy

In the old country of Mexico, there is an older country still. It twists and crawls at night, and it cannot be found in the day. Any traveler would have to focus to see the shadows within the darkness, but, even then, that would not be enough to give the land an honorable name.

Somewhere beyond the reach of the locals, but close enough to hear each child sleeping in bed, there are creatures of colors from dreams and nightmares. They growl, they gnarl and, worst of all, they laugh.

The land, divine and broken, has an oral history that has only ever been recited in the jungle of shadows that are only seen out the corner of an eye, while the most truthful poems are only to be found in ancient cemeteries. And, yet, the roadside shops of La Misión open and close each day without terror or notice.

Most had been locked up at sunset, with the shopkeepers going home to their families, taking the dirt paths that would always lead to them to a hearty supper and cold ale.

A thick scoop of black pressed itself against the hills and over the town, as night didn't fall as much as it splashed like a cannonball across the long, anomalous valley. The lamps of the living rooms were kept aglow, this was true, but the only shops left with life in them were the liquor store and the restaurant of choice, Maganas.

The sounds of the valley were atmospheric and quaint. Dogs barking, mariachi on a radio, and the symphony of crickets giving up on harmony. But a new sound slathered its greasy, beautiful noise across the only paved road leading into the small, moonless town of La Misión.

A motorcycle.

Chase Menen rode his motorcycle through the curves of the country. It was the only sound between the graves and the heavens for him. White stars and yellow lights dotted the bruised landscape, and his figure, pattering coolly along the slow carving of the hillside, was the only thing that moved. The silhouette of curious men and women watched him from behind the pale curtains and iron bars of their houses.

But no one spoke or hailed his arrival.

He pulled up to Maganas, greeted the employees warmly, especially the bartender David, and ordered his meal. After a few strong laughs, Chase stepped into the cool wind of the valley.

Chase lit a Marlboro Red, snuck a drag, and, in an instant, the world went black. Well, not exactly. He at least had the stars. Behind him, the inky details of the restaurant whispered not a word. There was not a soul, not a sound, not a thing. He withdrew the cigarette and watched the town with a thin tickle in his throat. The town was there, just as it had always been. But the air now tasted stagnant, as if he were taking deep gulps of an old house's damp attic. The windows of every home were dark, and not even a dog barked in the emptiness of the blackout.

His eyes adjusted, and the earth came back to him in purples and blues. His glare moved from one end of the road and to the other. There was no breeze in the fresh pelt of midnight. The nothing was complete.

"Huh," he said.

A boom erupted in the distance, and it came to echo throughout the valley. The splattering of an engine, one that belonged to another motorcycle, coughed a death so loud that Chase touch his ears to check for a wound.

The motorcycle rolled into town like slow lightning. It materialized from Chase's right, from the bridge he had driven over since he had been old enough to speed. The brutal racket of the motorcycle seized his nerves, as the vehicle barely made it to the front lot of the restaurant.

Then the stranger stepped off and undid his helmet, hurriedly dropping it to his side. A long top hat popped out from underneath it, along with shaggy hair the color of ash and soot. The rider's skin swirled in the light of the stars, moving even, as if snakes of melted seaweed and pasty white soap coursed through out his rangy limbs.

Chase blinked and corrected his eyes, and the skin looked ghostly yet ordinary in the fresh beat of his pupils. The stranger dressed in peculiar clothes that looked formal and ill-fitting. He was a long pile of scarlets and ebonies.

"In my haste, I must confess, I am without guidance," said the stranger excitedly. "Am I correct to assume you have been charged with the title of town mechanic?"

The phrasing had rattled Chase's head for a moment, but his wits returned with a swing.

"Oh, no, I'm just cruising through, picking up some food," said Chase. "That's a gorgeous bike though."

The stranger seemed confused. His eyes idled.

"What trade has claimed you as its own?" asked the stranger.

"I'm an engineer," said Chase.

"Ah! Splendid, splendid," said the stranger. "And that is your conveyance over yonder?"

Chase turned to see his motorcycle still parked in the dirt.

"Yep," said Chase, "that one's all mine."

"And it is a grand contrivance at that! So you have crafted your fingers as tools then," said the stranger. "I could use that toolbox of a hand, you see, as this perilous machine has lost its livelihood."

"What's the matter?" asked Chase.

"The matter is that it runs on knowledge," answered the stranger, "and I am too tired to teach it anything, lessons or otherwise."

"Right on," said Chase.

Chase took a long drag of the cigarette in his mouth, and put it out, stepping toward the unfamiliar motorcycle. As he approached the wheeled machine, the metal changed in each of his steps. It was a red that he had only seen the first time he accidentally cut himself. He remembered it looking like a river of jewels coming out of him. He stepped closer to the bike, and the colors came more quickly; the blue of skies above churches, the green of a field he made love in once, the brown of a girl's eyes that he had only ever seen dance in his dreams of South America.

His eyes strained from the spectrum. When he finally touched it, the motorcycle was nearly pellucid, and it burned. Like running a cold hand under hot water, the sensation was cruel.

"You built this yourself," said Chase with distraction.

"No, truly, I wish I could bestow credit for it upon myself, but when you are in the position that I'm often found in, you have created and destroyed enough to simply leave things be. There are others who will build. There are others that enter the world in search of destinies, and they remain despaired until their heart has been given purpose. To even tinker on a machine such as makes their very pores glow. I would take that away from no man or creature."

The engine stirred, almost with a breath of its own, as Chase's hand, strained and tense, dragged across the hide of the machine. It rumbled faintly.

"I've been working on bikes for a long time," said Chase, "and I've never seen something like this."

The stranger stepped forward, a thinly stretched smile cutting his face.

"Go on," whispered the stranger.

"I've been from here to India, and I've fixed up some of the wildest things not cooked up by a god, and this doesn't come close to anything I've found on the road."

"Tell me, young traveler," said the stranger with a peculiar intensity, "what is it you most want from the road?"

"I want to ride my motorcycle through the Middle East."

"Ah," said the stranger with a harsh tone of thrill. "A very brave charge but what do you most want tonight by dawn?"

Chase considered this, and his pupils swam through the murky waters of honesty.

"I could use a good surf right now," said Chase.

"Good," said the stranger with the coo of a hungry bird.

Chase noticed a small pack of tools tied to the seat. He unwrapped them and tinkered with the engine, all while the stranger posed questions and gave him conversation like a supple fruit that he could not stop eating. He could find nothing wrong with the motorcycle, though the stranger's demeanor had become more confident than curious.

"Now open the gas tank," said the stranger.

The stranger extended his arm, and a tool Chase had never seen before slid out of his sleeve and into his hand. Chase took the tool from the stranger and held it. The tool looked like a cross between a screwdriver and a wine opener, and it was heavy. But it fit into the lock of the oddly shaped tank. Chase removed the cap.

As if all the words he had said these last few minutes had been looming above him in the stationary air, Chase thought he heard his voice in tiny bits float downward by his ears and into the gas tank. Stunned, he stood up quickly and looked at the stranger, who leaned forward, scooped up the cap, and tightened it.

The stranger smiled knowingly. "That may have seemed all too easy to you, but it takes one with a great love for motorcycles to do it."

"I don't even know what I did," said Chase.

A moment of wordless echo seemed to pass between the canyon of the motorcycle riders.

"You know," said the stranger, "you aren't possessed with demand and desire like the others I encounter. They drag questions and requests. You carry observations and interests."

"Yeah, I guess that's true," said Chase.

"Well, no questions will get you no answers, but you have the immaculate glimmer of a wayward philosopher. So I will tell you," said the stranger. "There is a rumor that, every year, two motorcycles race across the world."

"Oh, yeah? What's the name of the race?"

"It has no name."

"Who competes?"

"There are no names for the two racers, but many are given," explained the stranger. "Good and Evil. Life and Death. God and The Devil. The battle, the race, the everything must go on, you see."

Another motorcycle suddenly wailed in the darkness. The bridge illuminated with a ghostly headlight, and the new banshee rider cried out in a mad bellow, poisoned with a feverish glee, flying by the two.

"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooow!" was the wild cry of the unknown.

Chase laughed.

"And there goes the other," said the stranger.

"Damn," said Chase, a gleaming smile decorating his chin.

But a sweat drew itself out of him then. His smirk deepened into an unfamiliar bite of the lips. His bones went cold, and the world unveiled itself to him, in truth and in logic. He breathed with patience, watching the lone light of the valley, besides the shower of stars above, pass as wild and easy as it had arrived. No fear drove his mouth to ask the million questions that devoured his tongue. Instead, he slowly turned his head and asked the one thing he wanted to know more than anything.

"So which one are you?"

The stranger showed him something that resembled a smile, as he buttoned his helmet. His mouth was a treasure chest of mismatched teeth. Chase had not noticed it before, but it had the unmistakeable quality of a hastily built fence, as if each tooth belonged to that of a different animal. How the mouth was able to close without gashes or cuts was beyond his mastery. The mechanics of it were other worldly, a terrible gift on display in the haunted museum of La Misión.

Finally, the stranger answered.

"I am the one who is losing."

The stranger threw himself atop the motorcycle, started the engine, and rolled it by Chase, back toward the road.

"In my many thanks, I would give you this," said the stranger. "Consider it a token for putting me back in the race. Chew the earth and rinse your mouth with the unknown, and you will get what you most need from this world."

He thrust out his hand and dropped the object in Chase's palm. It was a necklace of dark twine with an emerald oval looped into the thin rope.

"You carry moonlight with you now," said the stranger. "Rouse the tides and award your starved soul a feast."

With an enormous blast of color from the tailpipe, the sound rang throughout the valley. Chase could only describe it to himself as the sound of every war's first gunshot fired at once...

And so the stranger's motorcycle leapt onto the only paved road out of town and barreled out of the valley. The asphalt seemed to slide and careen beneath the weight of the spinning tires. A howl, not of man or animal, bestowed itself upon the chilly Mexican landscape.

Chase examined the necklace. His fingers, coarse from honest work, drifted over the surface. It was perfect in his smoothness. When he shook it, he heard the modest crashes of water inside.

The world returned with a call, and he looked up. The houses were aglow once again, and he turned to see the cook gesturing to show his food was on the tiled counter. He stared at the length of the road, but no cars or trucks crossed it, nor the demons or angels he suspected he might accidentally encounter.

He rode home, his quesataco stuffed into the pocket of his brown leather jacket. The house was as he left it, partially lit. His plan to turn on every remaining lamp in the house became him standing on the wall of the patio smoking a cigarette and listening to the ocean, as it purred against the dim house.

Chase picked up the beautiful stone that one of his younger cousins had discovered on the beach and left in a seashell last Christmas. He rolled it in his hand and felt its tiny curves.

After a cigarette, Chase climbed into his wetsuit and tied the necklace around him. There was a small but noticeable hole at the bottom of the oval, yet no liquid escaped. He tilted the gloomy green canister and still no water leaked from the necklace. It was curious.

He picked up his surfboard and walked to the water's edge with the small stone in his fist and the necklace hanging off his chest. The world was still, but not as silent as when the stranger had arrived. Cars passed in the distance, and the water coughed and crashed. After a long thought, the board and the surfer entered the sea.

After a comfortable paddle and several dips beneath small, easy waves, Chase sat upon his board. He laid the stone in his mouth and drank from the necklace. The water carried a sugary taste as he swirled it across his gums.

A wave rolled beneath him like a quiet, slow-waking beast.

The coastline's lone surfer watched the sky sparkle above him with the bare light of the stars, and the jewels of the coastline, a confetti of porch lanterns and highways lamps, snuck upon the world with a cluster of yellow that gave the cliffs a broken-tooth grin.

Chase gargled the sweet flavor a final time and then spit the stone into the ocean. It sank, and as it did, a stormy pale blue burst from the stone like glowing tentacles. The contorted arms spread out until the surrounding water looked sprinkled with every shade of blue oil paint.

And thenthe waves came. A set of translucent hills, swimming with the pace of great aquatic creatures, dazzling and featureless, rolled their way toward Chase, who lowered himself and began paddling forward, in anticipation of the Poseidon's playful challenge.

A magnificent lust blazed in the young man now, as his hands carved out the cold ocean water that warmed with each stroke. His fingers lightened, and the water's temperature reminded him of pool parties from his youth, when summer was endless and time was motionless, and he was free.

The bountiful laughter could be heard along the shore for miles, loud and exuberant, his eyes radiant and his heart triumphant. Blue, the color of boyhood and sea and sky alike, swallowed the darkness around him, piercing and welcomed. For this moment and beyond now, all was hope.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad: My Thoughts

Every newspaper in the country is writing a reflective piece on Breaking Bad today. As this show emotionally drained me for several years, I had to write my thoughts down to be done with it. The best review of Breaking Bad I've read so far is the one (Emily Wilson posted) from Grantland:

Anyway, I have to write this, or I'll go fucking crazy.

Breaking Bad will go down as one of the absolute greatest television shows of all-time, and it will forever be considered one of the best examples of storytelling, character development, and pacing.

And it dawn well should.

The show had integrity beyond what was necessary, and it captivated the country in a really strange way. It had cliffhangers but not really. It had twists but not really. It functioned independently of stereotypes and character arcs we've seen before, while, at the same time, making it obvious that it had learned where other shows went wrong and where they went right.

What impressed me about The Wire (which I predictably consider the most impressive TV show ever) was how big it always felt. It encompassed an entire city from every angle, and it told a grandiose story with stunning patience, meticulous care, and it rarely relied on suspense tactics. It was the cultivated reality that got to you.

On the other end of the scale has been Breaking Bad, as what has impressed me, from start to finish, was how small it felt. It was exceedingly personal and domestic. It was secretive, with low voices and intense two/three-person conversations. Some of the most tense dialogue toward the end happened in a garage and a Mexican restaurant. The show thrived off anxiety, and it accomplished its end-goal with a serene understanding of the audience the entire time. It knew what it was giving, it knew what it was taking, and the precision of it all, and how it parallels that of Walter White's words, but not necessarily his actions, might be what has blown me away most.

The show killed its darlings, and it did with drama and suspense (like there was always a frantic violin tremolo, in the background), but it didn't relish in it or overdo it. The wonderful trait of Breaking Bad was that your concern as a viewer was never exploited, even when it felt like it your heartstrings were on a rampage pluck. There was nothing cheap or arrogant about the show. It was confident, surely, but it was that confidence that made it appear flawless, because you knew you were being taken care of. You were entering a confident story told by confident writers, and you were confident that the story would tie up everything it had set loose. You, as a collective viewing audience, were in it together.

Why You Root For Walter White
There is inherent and immediate trouble to writing a main character that exceeds the others. With a main character so far along in a "cool" narrative, that is sincerely idolized to some extent by viewers, the writers have to avoid living vicariously through the lead at nearly every turn.

It's what ruined Californication, it's what threatens Mad Men almost by default, and it's what, to me, made Entourage unwatchable from the get-go.

That's what fan fiction is for, and it shouldn't ever feel like primetime is catering to men and women who are reaching through their characters' hands to accomplish what they cannot in real life. However, at the same time, it's so tempting, since the very creation of the character comes from them, either in the weird depths of their soul or the conversational portion of their mind, and, in the end, the writer can play god with it all if they so choose and are allowed to make that decision.

But, instead, the writers of Breaking Bad rightfully used ego to drive and destroy Walter White, just as I see the writers of Mad Men correctly using ego to make Don Draper unchangeable, which is resulting in his inability to adapt, ultimately leading him to realize that he is not the driving spirit he always considered himself to be. However, as I referenced above, it was the ego of the writers, not the characters, that made Hank Moody and Vincent Chase unbearable creatures of habit and bullshit.

There is a difference, and it is a big one.

The reason viewers can root for a character that has been responsible for so much bad in the world of Breaking Bad is a matter of respect, not envy. You have to respect a character who is that cunning (Hannibal Lecter, Ben Linus, etc). That's what has always made the craftiest antagonists so thoroughly engaging. You can argue anti-hero versus antagonist with this show, but I'm going with the latter, because the most fulfilling episodes for we were the first few of Season Five, Part II, when I felt like Walt might actually get a pretty serious comeuppance. When he had to pay money to have Ed stick around for a card game, I thought, "FUCKING GOOD. YOU DESERVE THAT."

But I was still rooting for him to kill every neo-Nazi in Albuquerque.

And maybe that's the best sign of a well-written character of duality, that you want everything good and bad to happen to him all at once, debating hate and love within yourself as a participant. I suppose, ideally, I wanted to see Walter White get the complete shit kicked out of him and then find out how he saw that it could be used to his advantage.

I know that Vince Gilligan said the story was "Mr. Chips becoming Scarface," but I'm also reminded by screenwriter Mike White's criticism of Judd Apatow later movies, when he pointed out that Apatow had gone from rooting for the bullied to cheering for the bullies. In Breaking Bad, we watched a bullied man become the bully, and it was justified, until he became a worse bully than all of them. It's the hero-becoming-the-villain angle, but this all came from a man who was mistreated by his boss and laughed at by his students. There was such a well of sympathy from the beginning, that by the time Walter White had moved into truly villainous territory, we were already invested in him as an anti-hero. But we weren't cheering for the bully to conquer the bullied. By then, he had already clearly stepped into the role of the calculated antagonist, and we had to find out what he did next.

The Problem With Skyler
For years, there's been talk of the audience's strange fascination with disliking Skyler. I can't speak for everyone, but my problem with Skyler was that she was inconsistent. Beautifully and exceptionally played by Anna Gunn, my issue was that, at times, she could sometimes be one of the strongest character on the show, but then wouldn't stay close to that level. That, of course, is the character they made, and it was crafted so well that I felt like I had encountered her type before, and these were old feelings stirring up the frustration.

Consider when she saw through Walt's bullshit and calmly and, with maximum force and minimal indulgence, said, "I fucked Ted." Consider when she had Kuby pose as a government inspector concerned about the car wash's supposedly environmentally damaging run-off, so she could get a sweeter deal and screw over that mouthy bitch who ran it. Consider every time she said, "No" in a way that made her one-word reply looked like slow motion with the impact of a door closing.

But then she would earnestly play the victim, as opposed to Walt who played the victim either purposefully or with delusion, and it bothered the shit out of me. I didn't think it was out of character. It was a character that seemed too scared to fully embrace something. When she learned that it was more than meth, that Walt was also involved in murders, she had every right to be scared. That changed the game, for sure. But, before that, she seemed stunningly powerful and divinely fierce one moment, and then the next moment she would be weak. Any person who can go that far, but only in bursts, not plans, starts to irk me. And she would use the meth money to get what she wanted and then talk to Walt like he was a monster (again, before the revelations of killing). The character of Walt at least struck a working balance of victor and victim, as he ventured between the most ruthless character and the most hopeless. I didn't like that Skyler would be verbose, poised, and fascinatingly in control and then suddenly be wet-eyed and mumbling. NO. Skyler was dope, and the problem was that she would falter in the least favorable way.

Random Thoughts:
  • The transformation of Jesse Pinkman wasn't as dramatic or epic as Walter White's, but that dude went from jokey idiot apathetic semi-tough guy to seemingly being capable of absorbing the guilt of every other character and demonstrating a profound, almost disturbing, amount of empathy. By the end, he was my favorite character. He did bad, but he felt it. He felt every ounce of remorse, terror, and tragedy.
  • Motherfuckin' Hank was my favorite character until he was injured and starting collecting geodes like a weirdo doofus. He was lost, and that was his balance. Either he was more than determined than anyone, or he was more aimless than anyone. So, to see him come back full force at Walt after all the pieces fell together in his mind was like pornography for my heart. I could've watched an entire season of Hank speaking shakily, as fury and concern burned through him.
  • I like the idea of the kids representing the remaining good in Walter White, as he's still a dorky dad with cancer to his son, even when he's contemplating Jesse's demise. Once Walter Jr. found out, that's when it all totally absolutely nationally goes haywire. Holly is all that's left. Holly is that little bit of him left that resembles good.
  • The usage of music and lyrics in the show was perfect. Every song was immaculately chosen and placed accordingly, truly. 
  • Every casting selection was flawless, and the acting was top-notch the entire way.
  • Honestly, you just have to admire a show that has the dad from Malcolm In The Middle, one of the creators of Mr. Show, and a stand-up comedian having one of the heaviest conversations about murdering a friend.
  • Saddest scenes to me (in order):
    • Jesse killing Gail (a crying guy shooting a nice guy)
    • Todd killing Andrea (an emotionless killing of an endearing innocent to prove a point)
    • Jack killing Hank (weirdo tough guy killing beloved tough guy)*
      • *I think this one was third because I always assumed Hank would be killed, so when it came, it was sort of like a relief for my nerves.
  • Best line: "I liked it."
    • Seriously, nothing made me happier as a viewer than Walt, in the finale, just admitting he liked the power, he liked the threat, he liked the skill, and that he was pretty much serving himself. It always drove me crazy that he promised everyone it was for his family and he couldn't believe nobody supported him. Ugh. Redemption points for self-discovery, man. 
You were so, so, so good, Breaking Bad. You were an unreal moment in the history of storytelling, and I thank you for the emotional abuse. Everything seems brighter now.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Sporting Pleasure of Chase Ruiz

"The Sporting Pleasure of Chase Ruiz"
a careful observation of the sure-bet gambler Chase,
if it was hastily written by Ayn Rand.
by Jake Kilroy

His eyes pulsed, surveying the great crop that was the world before him. He was the beginning and the end of the existence he allowed himself. There was control in his breaths. His lungs were clean and machinelike, fitted exquisitely for a hardworking man with a healthy routine that had already seen his skin leak sweat and his muscles ache from the morning's fitness. School would be later, and he had already done his running, lifting, and ab-ripping as well as the heavy breakfast he had cooked and finished before showering.

Now, clean and dressed, Chase Ruiz felt solace sweep over his property.

The roommate's dog, Danny, feverishly spoiled his canine nerves by sprinting around the backyard. Chase watched the creature lose energy like a propeller run aground, as the animal came to a slow, panting halt, broken and exhausted. Chase shook his head with his hands clasping each other like jacket hooks behind him. He had seen people like this, men and women killing what was left of them every  day. This was not, and would not be, a life for him, nor was it what he would sufficiently deem a life. There was no brilliance or courage to a speed that had the confidence and reckless quality akin to teenage sex. Chase was aptly promised what came to him, for he growled at the helm of his future, aware that the system could always work in his favor if he was willing in body and spirit.

In the most wholesome terms of observation, Chase Ruiz was a patient man. A statuesque individual, crafted against cause and effect, in order to meander through, at his cautious leisure, what stresses he would handle and what loves he would cultivate, he sought a life beyond life; a sanctity that was, profound, almost criminal, in its elegant isolation of one. More importantly, he understood human beings. Whether it was at the clinic or at a party, he witnessed what people could do for him if he remained aware with a beastly anticipation of their actions.

Some, most of them competitors, though often novice, called him a swindler.

But that would be the iron being tested, as credit is due to swindlers. In Chase's experience, swindlers, dapper and earnest in the bending of reality or environment, typically earned their keep with boiling blood and rocklike firmness. Thieves, on the other hand, are cheap shots, played out like sneaky fools on stage, browsing society in the shadows, afraid to stroll and be important to those who matter; a scavenger, stealing to either beg another day or pay tribute to his wayfarer ego at night.

Swindlers, though, attended dinner parties and laughed in the home of the host. They had the striking ability to sit near the head of the table and rouse laughter without the wager of doubt coming to fruition until the right information had been lifted and illuminated from one's sloppy pocket mouth. Society trusts swindlers because they operate within a system. They work until their nerves have been compounded and beaten, only to be made victorious, simply by enduring the fate of destiny, a glory that can be made tragic by the populace's tendency to call it something it is not and has never been.

Chase considered this and then shifted to his dining table to taste his coffee. It was still hot, but he drank it with fulfillment. The steam whipped at his gums for a moment, only for him to lick his lips and be done with the sensation. He turned the page of the newspaper, noticing a picture of hulking athletes colliding into one another. A dull smirk drew itself across his face, pressed with strong features and a cunning disposition, as his gaze paraded down the black and white steps of the printed words. He had once again done well in fantasy football. It was of no consequence for his pride, however. There was barely an acknowledgement beyond the lull in his movement.

He just wanted to know that he could and that he was.

From outside, birds called for each other, filling the house with song; an arresting testament to what lay beyond the windows that stood behind him, over his frame, tall and complete, offering little help besides passing rays of sunlight in the quiet mornings he had grown used to with the roommates at work.

His lunch plans were quickening their pace to his doorstep, and he knew that giving way to a distraction now would take an afternoon to right. With his brow furrowed over the sports page like a church's awning, he called his lady.

"I was just been thinking of you," she answered, the tone soft and expectant.

"You know why I'm calling you now," he said, his voice not bored, nor uninterested or annoyed; simply there, abundant in presence.

She sighed, feeling surrounded and outnumbered.

"You can't do lunch, can you?"

"No. There is work to be done."

"Fine," she breathed.


"There's no point to suggest Chipotle, is there?"

"No, not today," he told her, licking his thumb and moving to another page of the periodical. "I had chili and coffee for breakfast. Pushing myself today would be of no use."

"Then I will call up the girls. Maybe there's time to do brunch. Will you..."

"I will be busy until I am done."

"Yes...I know..."

The line lingered and demanded attention.

"Do you have the games out?" she asked him, finally.

"Listen, I want you to have a nice time with your friends. Drink mimosas, celebrate life, and then come home to me. Later. Tonight. I will make sure I am done with work then, so that you and I can give each other what the world owes us after a long day."

Her teeth creaked in a smile over the phone. Chase could hear her lips move.

"Well, then I'll be there," she replied, an amused lilt cheerfully escaping her words. "See you tonight."

"Wonderful. I will see you this evening."

He set the phone down and closed the newspaper.

His girlfriend was accurate in her remarks. Spread out across the table like a feast, erupting in color and tantalizing his fingers, were board games, video games, and sports equipment. Encircling the thorough study in fun were books, heavy and complete, stacked to a poetic height, as they cast curious shadows of towers over the activities.

Chase perused the text of each sport and recreation, studying their rules and philosophy with the precision he had taught himself in high school and sharpened in each level of higher education. The hobby had started with small words and big implications from a drunkard, upset in a card game that had whittled itself down to two players one Saturday evening. Chase had built his city of chips, and business was cruel to the other sporting architect, but this was capitalism and it has never been for everyone. The other player accused Chase of cheating, but there was as much as truth to the gentleman's words as there was sobriety to his rolling pin eyes.

No, Chase had not acted the part of a cheat this time; he had just been more aware of the holes in the game. What magnificent rage will burn through a losing hand's entire body if the desperation sets in. To keep the man's temper healthy and his car without slashed tires or flames atop, Chase suggested one last hand for all the money on the table. The large man's eyes set upon Chase with cruel brilliance, shining light above a maddening sneer. Chase, however, shrugged and mumbled a few meaningless words to show that he was thoughtful, not mute.

Unsurprising to no one in the room but the scoundrel at the other end of the green felt, Chase won the last deal and collected the money with an efficient sweep of his arm. He pulled up his bag, pushed in his chair, and shrugged again, clearly, quietly, and sufficiently insulting the man.

"Better luck next time," Chase said, addressing the man with an indifference that registered on the sauced brute like spit. The man, livid and deranged, shot up, but the others eased him down.

Once the loose-tongued individual registered a few more uneasy breaths, Chase put out his hands and answered the furious card shark, shaking with anger now, in range of the victor's mocking glare, "Sorry, bro."

In the car, Chase put on Glassjaw and sped onto the highway before the glassy-eyed gambler could reach the back lot and torch his Scion. Maybe even with him in it.

Not long after that evening, Chase took up reading all that he could about card games. He attacked all that his brain could accept before his head would spin, and he would smoke hookah in the backyard to relax. Insatiable and determined, he devoured the etiquette of croquet, taking notes of the gaps in the rules and creating a bribery system. He studied every potential friendly weekend suggestion, from volleyball to Scrabble, carefully constructing the mannered persona of a sporting player, with an intense knowledge of sports and games, shelved between the meticulous and questionable guidelines he had come to recite without hesitation in the shower upon waking every day.

With a long inhale of the fresh air that wafted through the open sliding door, he picked up the mug and finished his coffee, considering the long road ahead of him and the opportunities at every turn; surefire in the efforts of expanding his reach in all direction but backward. He found his daydreams to be madness at their most difficult, but, at times like these, they were pornography for the soul.

Shaking his wrist clear of all verbiage that haunted his tendons prior, Chase wrote what he imagined he would memorize as a nightly prayer, declaiming them even years from this clear day, this brief genesis in history.

Building empires is fine work if you can stomach the dust and the blood. If both ingredients are in one's appetite, then all that holds back the kingdom is the choice of crown. And the most glorious king of brutality and benevolence chooses both jewels and thorns.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Fantastic Dinner Party of Scott Barman

"The Fantastic Dinner Party of Scott Barman"
a tender yet quaint pull of the eyes about the musician host Scott,
if it were hastily written by Ernest Hemingway.
by Jake Kilroy

It was warm and a breeze came, so the windows were left open and the sky looked like it would be the great death that many soldiers drink to. The lights glowed in the garden and in the distance Scott heard the cars go by but they were not the guests. The guests would come later, after he had taken down shots of cool liquor like a sniper lowering the count of enemy troops.

He put on his black shirt and navy jacket and adjusted the radio to bring music to the room. It would be a long night and he felt energy in his bones coming to him now, finally, after a long day of preparing the food.

The air smelled of summer, but this was not enough. He had always loved the smell of coffee, even as a boy, when he would play in his metal band. He no longer saw those friends, but this was life. This was the torrid sea forever pushing us into the horizon. He lit a large candle in a vase filled with coffee beans and it was good and sweet and honest.

There was loneliness in the house. It had been there, truly. But tonight was the end of that. The women would fill his home with mirth and conversation and his bed would be full and he would be happy. A man does not need much to endure, but a bed of women has hurt no musician in this life.

He arranged his instruments and was careful of his selection. The piano can break a woman's heart more quickly than a ruined marriage. The guitar can be as tactful as a gun and it carries the boom of a Lazarus Pit. His orchestra pieces made up a militia and he was its captain.

He was a man with means, which is a god to many. To the restless and willing, a god is a man with all the control he can imagine, and the truest music is the sound of mutilating and mangling the nerves. It is a beautiful sound to those with ears that can bare it. This was a country of gods. He knew that.

He brushed his teeth and listened to the bossa nova. When he was done, he called the girl.


Her voice was soft.


"Is everything ready?"

"Everything is ready. I've poured the wine."

"We aren't the lovely type, you know," she said. He voice came excited and feline in its calm.

"You are who I want."

"All of us?"


"You are ambitious."

"I am a lot of things, but I am no coward."

"I'll have to consider the wine."

"You'll have some."

He put down the phone. That was enough. He would save his muscles for the lovemaking.

The smell of coffee and the taste of mint exhausted him with memories. He had thrown dinner parties before and the familiarity weakened him with beauty. The breath of warm lasagna coughed from the oven was not new. He was a man of family and of friends. There had been great laughs in his kitchen and sublime foreplay in his bedroom. There was the quality of an aristocrat to his tongue and the fury of a drunk to his blood. There would be no reason to not be welcomed in his home if one was of good faith in manners and an interest in dice.

The table blazed like a holiday. He watched the flames move in the breeze and he remembered the nights of his youth, when he was a college student studying music in the northern country. The sonatas he had written then as a young man in the city, the ones that had no place for the world but in the ear of a sleepy girl who had stayed the night, they came to him now.

He would go to the cafes that needed tending to and order sandwiches that were in desperate need of care and drink like a man with nothing to prove but honor and he would wait for the sun to go down to find hope or lust at a party near campus.

He had loved the darkness then as he did now. It was only after dinner he could resume his thoughts. The day would often prove useless and lost to the drought of time. He would bury himself in legal work or swim until the sun was no longer above him. At the pool he would watch the women, but they were often not what he was after. There would be a young white woman at the pool on stray afternoons, and it would stir his heart, but that was all.

In the kitchen now he sipped the wine and cut himself a pepper to enjoy with his glass before every appetite within his strange and serene body took him in the promised bellows of exceptional manhood. He would wait for the guests and he would give them everything he had in him, no matter how wild or sincere.

He took out the sheet of garlic bread and dropped it on the counter of scattered knives and forks. A crash of silver sounded from below the dish. The garlic bread was burned. The edges crumbled like ash. It spoke of gross poetry like a log in the hearth of the fireplace that his mother never let him use when she was out of town. This was not a surprise to him. He knew he would be a wealthy man that could set sail and live his life at sea eating fish and drinking port if only someone would pay him to burn garlic bread.

It was the truth and that is all that matters to some. It should matter to most but men are often too proud to take their blows like the prizefighters they boast to be in bars at last call. What should be nothing is everything to a liar. It is worse when the only person in the bar is the bartender. Not even the mirrors talk to the loudest scoundrel.

His friends would always talk about the garlic bread as if it had never been the grand curse that it came to be in his formidable years of cooking. It haunted him from his earliest days as a host. The wine, the women, the whipped cream had always been to his preference, but the garlic bread would laugh in the freezer and then cackle in the oven. A bare brutal beating would come from his compatriots, but they were at least true and loyal, and that is all a man can ask of his friends and lovers.

The door rattled with knocks now and he heard the squealing and giggling of his guests in the courtyard on the other side. He opened the cabinet beneath the sink and dropped the mangled sacrifice into its usual temple and closed it. There would be no garlic bread this evening. There would be wine and sex and lasagna but the garlic bread had played it's part in the death of a quiet chef's reputation. He wanted the women and there would be no fool left in the kitchen.

He brushed his blazer, moved a hand through his hair and surveyed his teeth in the mirror of his dining hall before he answered the door. He turned the knob and the night was tempered with glory.

"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii," he said.

A half dozen Asian women in black dresses stumbled into his house with fervor and eagerness. They passed Scott and removed their coats and kissed his cheek and showed the white teeth they couldn't hide in their red cheeks any longer. They had arrived in a cab and he closed the door. He would drive them home in the morning, after a swim in the nude with good sunlight and iced tea.

"Who wants wine?" he asked.

Each woman showed him the bottle of wine they brought with them. They still howled like their throats tickled with exotic feathers in each breath. They had the same notions as him and they might have been even more riddled with the dreams that we so often find pretty before sleep in a bed alone for one night too long. These women were the last thoughts he would have on his deathbed, he surely knew.

"Very good," Scott said. He pointed his finger in a quick jab and made an elegant sound. "Mmhmm. Very good indeed."