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."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"a crowd of quiet lovers"

"a crowd of quiet lovers"
written after a hearty breakfast by jake kilroy.

unearthed with grit in the muscles,
pulled back like a victorian curtain,
there were heavens in each of us,
circuses in the chest,
dinner parties in the depths.
we were a mass of loners
spread across the world,
thinking, my god,
if only they knew.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

9/50: Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
4/5 stars
This is my 9th book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which Rex leads 12-9. Full list can be found here.

This book was wonderful, as expected, since, hey, it's Vonnegut.

It's funny, though, as this one was the first Vonnegut book many of my friends read. This was never assigned reading for me in high school, and, my goodness, if it had been, I might've turned out to be an entirely different person. It wouldn't have been because of the themes or even the nature of the narrative. I would've just really embraced Vonnegut at an earlier age. If I had read Vonnegut as a high school student, it might've changed my tactics on debating war, society, and sex. Maybe I would've been more sad and less angry about Iraq. Maybe I would've cut people some slack and not anticipated the world as black and white. Maybe I would've have been so baffled about teenage sexuality.

I read my first Vonnegut book in college, and he didn't click for me as the grandiose philosopher of morality and charm that he's come to be for me until I was a young professional.

To me, Slaughterhouse-Five didn't really figure out where the lagoon of my heart was to swim in, as previous books of his have struck me like lightning coursing through my nerves, as the world unveils itself to me. Don't get me wrong. This is a tremendous book, as it observes tragedy and humanity with the same gusto and beauty as he always has. I just think I maybe had it lurking around my life for so long with so many people talking about it that the revelations of it didn't conquer me the same way. It was, however, an absolutely wonderful take on time travel and the problematic, and sometimes rewarding, nature of indifference.

On the most basic level, Vonnegut understood this country and this world better and harder than anyone. The man was just one correct, rousing, glorious statement after another. He witnessed and wrote, and his casual remarks were spot-on and incredible beyond the stuffy libraries of academics and the wild petri dishes of drugs that belong to modern "philosophers."

To view the world with such humor, humility, and wonder, alongside pointing out the destruction and the horridness is unreal, almost unholy. Vonnegut, in this book and others, presents a voice that would've given God advice and told jokes to the Devil. It's just fascinating to know they teach this book in school. What a way to educate youth.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Long Night of Jackie Jones

"The Long Night of Jackie Jones"
a borderline obnoxious five-chapter story about the photographer Jackieif it were (quickly and lazily) written by Charles Bukowski.
by Jake Kilroy

Chapter I: Hot Night
I got home late from the newsroom. It was dark but pretty. The sky was still there, so I hadn't died on the way home. There was music on somewhere. My studio was still and hot, but what else do Americans expect from their bedrooms in the summertime? People want to come home to a disaster or flowers, and they never learn it's nothing but a room. There are a hundred rooms on the block. Why would any of them be different from the others?

"All these weddings and no assistant," I cursed with salty gums. I had hoped my work would've done itself in hours ago.

Chapter II: Sure Enough, Here
The clock was a sloppy mess, hands everywhere. Or maybe it was the heat. Maybe Dali was right about clocks. Maybe Einstein was right about time. Maybe I was right about nothing. At least here was cold beer in the fridge. It would be a long night, but that's the only kind I've ever had.

"All these weddings and no assistant," I mumbled again, waiting for the air to come on. The air was staler than the bread I begged for when I was a rotten youth.

I set my bag down and considered my computer. Lurking in it were brides and grooms and the terrible aches of the future. How had so many deadlines come knocking at my door to let themselves in? Why was I always at the Orange Circle taking photographs of sunlight?

Ah. So I'd have something to hold onto when the darkness and wine came later.

Chapter III: Sacrilege of the Photographer by the Writer
Hours later, I had a headache and my pajamas on. There were photos everywhere with memories nowhere to be found. They let me drink at these weddings, and they shouldn't. I'd be a mess if there weren't other messes. I can blend into a crowd. It's not that hard. All you do is stand tall and micmic the others. This is why sheep get eaten by wolves. They try to show off.

Individuality will get you killed. Conformity will get you married. The irony will get you grinning. But, ideally, in the back of your mind, you also see yourself smiling in front of a firing squad.

Joe Purdy came from the small radio I keep by the window. His answers made sense, but I had no questions I could ask this late after so much work with words. I nearly drowned in the wine bottle that watched over me like a concerned friend. These were troubling times, but I was in no mood to be anything else than drunk and glorious at photo editing.

So many lovers, so many meadows, so many holding hands with daylight glimmering until nausea sets in later, often around midnight. Then I will go to bed, convinced that I am the reason these people even love each other. The artist with the loaded gun, bullets flying out (months later, after I've touched up the colors), here now in the foxhole of her room, waiting out another summer of engagements, weddings, and babys being goddamned babies, drooling on themselves, like I will one day when I have finally given up the camera for good.

Chapter IV: When You Finally Give into Everything You Want and Your Body is Silent
When the slurs finally came to my mouth, the empty room felt like another person. It sheltered me and kept me company. I wasn't lonely, though every strong-hearted person says that, whether they mean it or not. I can be mean or not. Whatever suits the mood suits me. There's nothing to do about the world if it doesn't feel like it.

Around 2, I called Celeste. She didn't answer. It was just as well. I had seen New Girl GIFs online, and my only intention was to giggle with her for 45 minutes, or until one of us lost breath and fell asleep. These were the nights, and we welcomed them.

The sun was still gone, and I was still awake, but we would both be changing soon. What lousy creatures night owls are, with their broken eyes and their busted hearing. So I called a man. His name was in my phone as "Robert, M.D." I didn't remember him. I remembered what I had that night. But you can't make a house call to eight vodka tonics and a handful of vicodin.

Robert answered without any tone of drink or drug. He was asleep.

"Hello?" came the groggy voice.

"Hi, is this Robert?" I chirped.

"Who is this?"

"Are you a doctor?"


"Are you a doctor?" I repeated, slower this time. This brute was a drag.

"I'm a maitre d'. Who the fuck is this?"

"So you're not a doctor," I moaned in distress, this time making sure to roll my Rs like the bad girls from high school had taught me.

"Who. The Fuck. Is this?" he growled like a monstrous beast from Hell.

"Your worst fucking nightmare."

I hung up. If he wasn't going to give me the time of a day, I didn't see any point in giving him the time of night.

I wondered what Kristen was doing.

Chapter V: The Devil's Play Things
I tried to do the math to figure out if Kristen was just going to bed or just getting up, but the numbers might as well have been sworn enemies. I can count cigarettes, and I know what radio stations play the right songs, so I stopped. It was enough math.

I went back to the computer. I had enough of weddings. There was more to life. There was more to the world. The problem wasn't the system. The problem was me. I had made a living taking pictures of happiness, and they weren't me. I was happy, and I've been happy. But happiness to me is free booze and a dance floor. I don't need a whole goddamned society telling me otherwise.

Still, I suppose there is always something left, even at night. The fears and the anxieties come out of the darkness swinging at you. The problem is that it requires a choice. Step back, swing back, or die. I decided to find a man, to find sex. I was bored, and I was hungry, and it was more work for me to make a sandwich at this hour.

I took down the last of the last bottle, unable to read labels anymore until rest. So I went to the window. I wasn't a beggar, but I wondered. Where were the machines of sex? Where were the men, soldiering on as nobodies in their great lifelong campaign of nothing? Where was the entertainment for a young woman hellbent on everything? They were supposed to be ready and willing and eager to ruin.

So here I was, a woman, empty and coarse, relentlessly pursuing a dream, any dream.

And then the young man dropped off the morning paper. His eyes lured up to my window like a catfish with his mouth caught on the grime of the hook. I grinned, starved for attention and sweat. He, on the other hand, gulped so loud it should've woken the neighborhood. He set down his bike, and I walked to the door to unlock it. There is never a need in this world to be impolite. Always be a good host. It will be repaid in the afterlife.

Friday, September 6, 2013


after a quick, small, late-night talk by jake kilroy.

we carried the heartbreak with us.
we had enough honor to not drag it,
and we had enough sense to not name it.
but it was with us, tucked away in our chests,
sweating inside our shirts in the summertime,
as we ran our mouths broken in every venue
and smoked everything with promise to kill us.
it was forever a death squadron season here,
in our youth.

there was no tragedy in the heartbreak.
it had hardened our nerves,
but only to love harder.

we were ruffians accordingly,
posed and well-mannered,
though destroyers entirely.
we salted our wounded tongues
every evening under the moonlight.

so our dance shoes never saw daylight,
and our flowers only grew after sunset.
the world was open and free and available.
all we had to do was show up for the taking.