Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Coat Check

Recently, I've developed an addiction to perusing the missed connection sections of Chicago's local papers and online hubs. I'm generally not into posting my own unspoken momentary infatuations, but reading them, the varying accounts of shy romanticism and optimistic desperation, instills a sense of solace. Stories of girls with secret crushes on underappreciated falafel clerks, the professional khaki clad reformed thirty-something jock who realizes his good looks and party days are rapidly receding and therefore attempts to build meaning and stability out of a Hancock Building elevator encounter, or the countless accounts of the infamous smile on the train it's all rather intriguing. Indeed, hiding within the smeared ink and the small font monitor glares theres hope for hope, sex and love, and an oddly potent, uplifting expression of the human condition. Plus, there's always the chance that someone could write something for you.

Sunday night is not an ideal time for working the door at a venue or bar. A week and a half ago I was in typical form: weary from another drawn out Saturday night, missing the Simpsons, trying to maintain my composure amongst a teeming crowd of brutishly inebriated Bears fans and high fashion bourgeoisie rockers, and most of all, wanting to be somewhere alone and quiet. After cattle corralling a sold out show and entering a yelling match turned near fight with a patron, my hands wouldnt stop shaking and my mind fixated itself on the promise of going home to a mac n cheese movie night combo.

Through the oncoming masses, her eyes caught me from twenty feet. Aesthetically, she was gorgeous, but the appeal transcended sheer looks. In all aspects, she was radiant; my chest was sputtering. Her elegance was organic. She had a smile that could stop a war. I aligned my chair-bound posture. When she spoke, sweetly toned, (albeit the conversation lasted for only ten seconds and was constrained to the formalities of ticket will calling) my hands stopped trembling. A name was crossed from a piece of paper, her hand was stamped and I wished her a good night as she magnetized me away with her. I went back to trying to read my book. Half an hour or so later she returned to my podium, asking if there was a place to hang her jacket. Once again caught in her snares, I explained that there was no coat check, but that I'd keep an eye on her jacket if shed like to hang it on the wall behind me. Obliged, she hung it over my book bag and disappeared again. I waited. Shortly after, she was back with me inquiring about bar tabs and ATM machines. Damn you bar tabs and ATM machines. There had to be some way to convey myself to her. I was sick of doing my job. I wanted to small talk it or walk her to the nearest bank. Alas, taking the modest route, I answered all work related questions with no complications.

The internalized pep talk is something I've become very accustomed to. I am an expert when it comes to self contained dialogues. When she left to get cash, I began plotting conversational tactics. Some sort of left and right lobe battle was raging. Part of me was insisting that I muster up the courage to strike up some conversation and another was rationalizing fears of likely failure with the concept that girls like that always have boyfriends. After much tug of warring, with the youll-never-know-unless theory pulling its weight, I determined that something had to be done.

I was ending my shift with a drink when she came back in from the cold. She smiled and waved as she passed - an action which caused me to choke on my beer. I spit slightly as I returned the wave. Perhaps talking wasnt the best of ideas. She hung up her jacket once again and headed back to the show.

I don't recall actively thinking about consequences when I began writing the note.. Within a minute or less the idea bubbled and boiled. I picked up the nearest piece of paper, which happened to be a pack of matches, and just started writing. If my memory serves me right, this should be an unflawed replica:

Coat Check m4w 26 This is in or around Schubas
Due to my lacking vocal vocal abilities, at the risk of coming off as intrusive or creepy, I've opted to put this note in your coat pocket. It seems as though my childish romanticism has gotten the best of me. You are absolutely stunning. I wish I had said more to you.
-Brian - coat checker, doorman, ATM informant (insert phone number here)

I folded the matchbook so the text was facing outward, waited until no one seemed to be watching me and slipped it into the side pocket of her coat. It was all rather reactionary. I clocked out and went home. Chances were slim that she'd call, and if for some reason the note really did come off as overly intrusive, I hadn't seen her before and I'd probably never see her again.

The next night, having decided to go see a friend's band at the Empty Bottle, I came home from work to pick up my bike. The weather was tolerant and in Chicago, if it's January and a bike can be ridden without undergoing a severe beating from Old Man Winter, the opportunity should be seized. Prior to heading out the door, I asked my roommate John if he cared to join me for drinks and tunage. He did, but was unfortunately bikeless. Pedal cruising was no longer an option. Oh well, there was always Spring. Against my will, he convinced me to take the Western bus. I hate buses.

What happened next, while many folks wouldnt think much of it, was one of the few experiences I've had that's driven me to question coincidence. I boarded the bus behind John, silently shunned the CTA for fair hiking once again, and headed back for a seat. Then, with a lump suddenly plummeting from my throat to my toes, I noticed the girl whos jacket Id sabotaged the night before sitting with a friend three rows back. Youve got to be fucking shitting me. I think I heard her giggle.

Timing can be a mysterious entity. The smallest of decisions, starts or stalls, can easily dictate potentially monumental events. As Hallmark as it sounds, thoughts of fate, a long with some affectionate butterflies and adrenal chemicals began churning around inside of me. Did John's involvement in pushing the bus option make him a dealer of preordained meetings? The surrealism was scalding. Not that running into this girl on the bus was necessarily monumental, but at the time, it sure felt like it - I was crippled.

With anxiety prescribing my every move, I took a seat and leaned back casually. I was hiding my face, attempting to make it appear as though this secondary meeting was no big deal. I know it's a generalization, but from my experience I tend to agree with the idea that in times of courtship, most women like things played fairly nonchalant; being overbearing, overly enthused, or writing excessively confessional narratives such as this one usually doesn't impress. As the bus carried on its diesel-trudge way, I spoke to John as if all was normal, making sure not to cast glances in the matchbook girls direction. It being around 9pm on a Monday evening, southbound on Western Ave., chances were that she and her company were also headed to the Bottle. I beat the two of them to the stop ringer cord, but they were on our heels.

Inside the nicotine shrouded room, bobbing through bodies and conversation, I b-lined it to the bar. With my nerves five-alarming, a cool beverage was in order. After sharing my tale with John in the bars back area, despite his insisting that I should at least say hello, I determined that she probably did find the note, was entirely disgusted with it, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with yours truly. At least I had tried. Checking my peripherals all the while, I watched the band finish their set, caught up with some acquaintances, grabbed another beer and made plans to meet up with other friends elsewhere.

We've all made sultry eyes before. It needs to seem subtle, never obvious. If you're lucky, the glance is returned. As John made one last attempt to build my confidence, with me incessantly shaking my head and slugging away on hops, she ordered a drink down the bar. Then, she turned towards me and smiled. Things got stranger when she walked over, started talking, and told me the note made her day. We laughed about the bus encounter and talked about the weather. The energy spinning off her was cyclonic. She spoke fast. We moved into discussing the splendors of the South, design and writing. Things were going well. It turned out we even had an employer in common. I kept filling out my diction with "like". I hate doing it. California wording seems to sneak off my lips when I'm nervous. She introduced me to her friend. We talked coffee. Early mornings are such a bust without it. After about fifteen minutes I had to leave. I had plans. Better to leave this short and sweet. It would make the next time out all the better. And hey, everyone knows fate shouldn't be tempted. I told her I'd like to grab dinner or a drink down the near-line. She told me she'd "definitely call".

Over the course of the next few days I drifted into a crush induced dream state. I went about my usual routines: typing away at work, staying out late with friends, hopping trains around town, banging away on my guitar, seeming typical on the surface, but submersed in fathoms of hypothetical romance. I imagined where we'd go our first time out together. The nickel arcade or the Garfield Park Conservatory made strong arguments. I imagined what it'd feel like to have someone crack the code - to draw me from my shell. I imagined what it'd feel like to do that for someone else again. I imagined her hometown - willow trees and hospitality. I thought of mine - pine trees and hospitality. I imagined sleeping in and afternoon breakfast - eggs and biscuits with vegi-gravy. Every time my phone rang my heart rate increased. If I didn't recognize the number it was ten times worse. I waited. The days crumbled into night and back again. This wasn't good.

If you hope big, you fall hard. I'm leading a polar life of extremes. It just didn't make sense; events and correspondences that seemed to minimally warrant a chance working themselves into nothingness. I was being my usual over analytical, obsessive self. I'm thinking I should start to adhere to every piece of laughable, beat-dead old timer advice in existence. If it's too good to be true, it usually is. Karma was pummeling me. I'd been snubbed by my own sentimental bullshit.

On what, according to the universal rules of the game, was the last day that she could possibly call, I found myself with the sun fading into the grey-scaled skyline, waiting for the Damen bus. After ten minutes of cigarettes and coffee in the cold, when the people mover came, I was pondering the likelihood of another path crossing. My eyes scoured the plastic seats and brace bars for signs of life. Maybe things just happen, without any sort of purpose or destiny in mind. I paid my hiked fair and took a seat in the front next to an obese middle aged woman in sweat pants. She was laughing and chatting up the bus driver, who for an employee of the public transit system, was unusually sociable. There was talk of the upcoming weekend's happenings. He mentioned a family visit. Asserting herself with the type of pitch that's unmistakably attached to hard earned pride, she exclaimed, "I got myself a date." Maybe, just maybe, like a quick cross-room look from a wishful set of bedroom eyes, fate maneuvers subtly and often goes unnoticed. The bus driver chuckled and paused for a moment. Glancing over to the smiling woman through the swarm of rush hour traffic, he replied warmly, "Good for you. Hustlin'. Gettin' it. Making things happen." I was glad to hear that someone was.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Keep The Heads Ringing

I don't dance. Let me rephrase that: I can't dance. After a brief sixth grade stint of trying my best to work the running man out while sporting one-strapped overalls, I learned my lesson. Most of my friends dance, some of them even do it with conviction and style. When most people dance, no matter how talented or epileptic they may look, they generally appear to enjoy themselves. Remember MTV's "The Grind"? If so, perhaps you can recall how when hosting the show, Eric Nies was often camera-caught on the sidelines bobbing his head with a barely believable tough-guy mannerism? He taught me everything I know.

I don't consider myself to be a conservative individual. On the contrary I think I tend to live my life, socially and ethically, in a fairly unorthodox standard. However, I don't dance. Nothing in this world provides me with a deeper sense of self-consciousness. Next to nothing in this world makes me feel so uncomfortable. Even during dire times, when the dance floor is being held down by folks that are embarrassing themselves to extents far greater than anything that I'm capable of, I don't dance. Of course, exaggeration has it's place in writing and I can't truthfully say there haven't been a few exceptions. For the most part, a copious amount of alcohol can't get me shaking what my momma didn't give me and neither can gorgeous girls grabbing me by the hand. Both however, in rare instances, have.

The Exit, for a few varying reasons which I'll gladly elaborate on, is the worst bar in Chicago. The first, and most obvious rationale, comes with the notation that most distilled beverage consuming Chicagoans that I choose to dabble with would agree that nearly all four a.m. bars are bad news. It's a pretty straightforward theory: By two a.m., unless you work in a bar, chances are that in a formal sense, you've already had plenty to drink. The four a.m. bar, by nature is a spill over locale for every drunk fuck from within in the city and elsewhere. Last chance to splatter your brains, last chance to splatter your pants, so forth and so on. The result can be and usually is, rather disastrous. As an individual who tends to think that most people don't tend to think enough, spending even fifteen minutes with drunken apes who've missed out on Darwinism doesn't seem too ideal. That being said, as an individual who unfortunately has a tendency for reckless thirst consumption, I find myself, from time to time, out and about at three a.m in the company of many slurring, slobbering no-necked, primitives who are desperately trying to fufill their instinctual desires. People watching is one of my favorite hobbies.

Moving a long, any bar or commodity-based establishment that chooses to market itself under the term "punk rock" is adhering to an irony and contradiction rarely surpassed. Yes readers, I'm sure this is a point that could easily remain unspoken. The Exit, a self-proclaimed "Punk and Rock Club", with it's five dollar cover, overpriced drinks, offensively cliche jukebox, jocks-in-leather-disguise patronage, flame and skull decor, and multi-level dance cage, hardly seems to fit the term. May I also mention that I find it incredibly difficult to find positivity or differentiate, in the year two thousand and six, between a roomful of people chanting a long with the Misfit's "I Want Your Skull" and a roomful of people chanting a long with the Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain". Both options seem rather trite. People watching is one of my favorite hobbies.

Last Saturday, I found myself at the Exit... and dancing. You may be asking yourself: why, oh why Brian, did you stoop so low? To take notes friends - to take literal and figurative notes. At best, I got to sit on a gutted motorcycle with my legs crossed in the tightest of ways, limp-wrist revving, trying to see what kind of anger-rise I could get out of the looming industrial-fist-clenching-punk-as-bunnies crowd. At best I got a surplus of laughs. At best I learned that Social Distortion is still quite popular. At best I made my friend Anna buckle into near-tears as I electric slid and interpretive danced my through a swarm of serious, very serious, pulsating, morbid techno fans. At best, after thankfully exiting the Exit, I went home and stayed up until eight a.m performing puppet shows with my socks, discussing which martial arts super heroes my goldfish could defeat, and studying the details of the D.D.T. wrestling maneuver by watching one Mr. David Holtz demonstrate it on a chair. At best I learned that the Exit is still the worst bar in Chicago and that I still can't dance. At worst I spent 15 dollars on three canned beers and woke up mid-afternoon with a moderate headache. So drunken friends and future wives, consider this a challenge: I won't be dancing or going to the Exit anytime in the near future. Until you prove me wrong, I'll be wallflowering it prior to two a.m., with my head nodding in Nies style.

Maple Orange

This is a piece of fiction that I wrote last Spring while being delayed at the Houston Internation Airport. A disclaimer: please keep in mind that while this story would suggest otherwise, it is not blatantly based in any truth; I am very fond of my father, and my family. Enjoy if you will:

It was nothing like I had expected it to be. My stomach didn’t hurdle upwards. There was no limb flailing or panic stricken adrenaline bursts. No screams, no rubber necks. It was near weightless; a crescendo falling leaf descent, slow and stroked by drifts and jolts. I delivered myself to my destination gentle and quiet. Back to the beginnings in an odd homecoming. Back through the fog with my eyes shined. The air pressed itself steadily on my face, rippling in sheets under my weight. It whistled and hummed in my ears all constant and breathy.

I remember the taste of blood in the mouth. Vivid, dripping down onto the throat from the nasal cavities. Pooling up under the tongue, sparking up in the taste buds; sharp and acidic. Thinking about him I could taste it. The sound a fist makes on the skull, the nose, the jaw line. It’s a thunder laced wrecking ball. The splintering sound of bone formations snapping. A shatter and then an explosion through the nerve lines.

My earliest years are vacant, permanently blank. They’re sterile and lacking. Before the bad there was nothing. The fatherhood, aside from biologically, was forged. He may have, very briefly, been fond of the idea being a father. He may have, in rare and fading instances, entertained the role as a fantasy. That phase, incapable and cheap, his finest moments, came to a quick end. There was no molding of personality, more so a wet lump of splattered genetic matter left melting in the dark. Then the beatings got worse. I got older. And the words, the words were just as horrendous.

The windows passed in strobes through the corners of my eye. The floors counting down in film strip frames. Eight, seven, six, five… Even then in those cathartic seconds I couldn’t shake him. The dragon fire on his breath, the course leathered wrinkles burnt into his face. His voice. I thought my chest would combust, sending a flash flooded fire through my veins before it actually was all supposed to end. Four, three, two… And then, when the cold concrete puckered it lips to mine I shifted - open wide at the chasm. I could see his eyes, piercing mine. Jet black dots smeared in a hazy blue. Crushed and begging. I saw him as a small child: in an empty corner, fragile, as a cog in the wheel, bruised and quivering. This was pity. Some unconventional and awe inspiring sense of forgiveness and then… then the sea of white.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

If There's A Cure For This...

When I was ten or eleven years old my best friend's brother was diagnosed was brain cancer. Soaking in the drastic news, I for some reason took it upon myself to begin an onslaught of question-asking and research regarding the causes, symptoms, and treatments. At this particular juncture in my life, my career interests were focused on the fields of paleontology, space travel, petty mischief and professional skateboarding. Although it would have been ambitious, plans to attend medical school had nothing to do with my cancer-studying motives. As my delving thoughts and education on the matter progressed, so did a new condition. Convinced that I too was suffering from a tumor, all of my mental capacities locked themselves into the textbook symptoms: I gave myself daily headaches, upset stomachs, and occasional bouts of dizziness. I often imagined myself, bald, emaciated and sock-eyed, trembling with my teary-faced parents at my side, in a hospital bed after multiple rounds of chemo treatment. For nearly a year, there was no doubt in my young little mind that a premature and painful death was absolutely imminent. Fortunately, my friend's older brother survived and so did I.

During Middle School, after watching a Nostradamus video in Histroy Class, I began plotting Armageddon survival tactics. I spent hours daydreaming of fallout and radiation sickness, hoping that I could somehow find a way to escape the end of times with my family and close friends intact. I came to accept the fact that despite my best interests, I'd never grow old, never see the sun rise after my freshmen year in College, and quite possibly, never experience, ahhhem, the S word. I began trying my best to live as though I only had about five years to go; which all in all, minus being crippled by terrifying and obsessive thoughts, isn't a bad way to go about your days and nights. Time passed and my Road Warrior Nuclear Winter obsession subsided. 1997 Rolled in and out, and I was still breathing.

I've had mutations, leukemia, half of the cancers known to human-kind, bunches of STDs, prank call death-threats that were bound to leave me drive-by-shot-up-bleeding-to-death-in-a-gutter, and a whole bunch of other shit. I dying all of the time. I'm sick all of the time. Right now, throat and lung cancer is where it's at. Minimally, the cough and sinus brutalization is a reality. The half to whole pack a day thing really isn't helping. Technically speaking, my synpases might just need a tuneup. What's the point? Well, most people, at least the thoughtful ones, have their share of baggage. Sometimes, making light of it or simply spouting it all out is the best mechanism of coping available. Oh, and before I forget, earlier this week I found
  • something that's bound to take this particular struggle to a maximal level.
  • Sunday, January 01, 2006

    thirty four years too early (read below)

    Kittens and Needles

    Emily and I go way back. When I was a shorty, she baby sat my good friend's little sister. During the time of sprouting pimples and hormones, she provided me with sanctuary, got me into the Pixies, and took me to some of my first parties. She's been a granite friend and an honorary sibling. She's seen me at my worst and a little better. She's encouraged me, guided me and checked me. We've seen each other through a handful of romantic failures.

    A few months back I called her in one of my defeated and mood-swung I-can't-find-any-sort-of-purpose, my-twenty-something social-and-attempted-love-life-consists-primarily-of-utter-
    isolation moments, knowing that she'd be willing and able to provide me with consolation. Given her penchant for relationships that involve the unbearably indecisive or fresh out of (and often still very hung up on) lengthy love affairs, and given my lofty standards and frequently unbreakable internalization, we determined there's a fairly good possibility that the two of us will end up condemned to old people's singledom. A pact was made. We agreed that if we're still both solo-flying by the time we reach sixty (assuming we're still alive) that we'd move in to a dilapidated house together, adopt somewhere between ten and forty cats, and take up mutual heroin habits.

    Last night, when the New Year clock struck twelve, I was in the company of many adored hometown friends. After having spent the past four celebratory calendar turners miserable and working, I was having myself a grand old time, but when Emily witnessed her current fling making out some with girl-drink drunk floozy and I ended up with nothing more than brief hugs and pat-backers, I couldn't help thinking ahead to two thousand forty. The smell of burning spoons and kitty litter suddenly filled the night air. From across the cheering room I glanced at Emily and smiled. Meouch, the future's looking bright.