Friday, December 30, 2011

Hail Dropped Like Bullets Through the Air

Cold night air everywhere...

Carrie had a boyfriend. Someone she knew from High School.

We never saw him, but we heard all about him.

Then, one night, she showed up crying. He'd dumped her by letter. Couldn't even wait until they saw each other. Couldn't call her (although it was before cell phones, back when long distance still meant anything).

She waved the letter and we looked at it. It was filled with typos and grammatical mistakes. Someone said "he's an illiterate dope, you're better off without him." This made Carrie cry even more.

I took her for a walk. We went down the hill. To the statehouse with the big fluffy lawn.

I made her roll downhill on the lawn. This momentarily made her feel better.

And we walked back up the hill.

"I never thought we'd be together forever," she said. "But I thought we'd make it to New Year's Eve."

And she started to cry again.

I wanted to hug her, but I didn't. Instead I distracted her with a story about a girl I knew in High School.

It was a funny story. And it made her laugh.

But she would have rather had the hug.

When we got back to the dorms, she thanked me for the walk. Then she hugged me.

"Maybe you and I should hang out later," Carrie said.

And I nodded. I wanted that too.

But I didn't want to swoop in after she'd been dumped.

And it was right before finals.

So I didn't do anything about it.

And then Carrie started dating this guy named Marc. And whenever she saw me, she'd give me a sad smile.

A smile that seemed to say "you should've hugged me."

And I nodded. Because I should have.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Listen (the Snow is Falling)

Between your head and my mind...

This story starts with a girl.

A girl who lived in the Rockies and hated the lack of snow in New England my freshman year of college.

But then it snowed overnight. And that made her happier than I'd ever seen her.

"We should go sledding. Down that big hill near the sports center," she said.

But we were college freshmen and we didn't have sleds. Or anything that could pass for sleds.

Still, I wasn't about to let her go without sledding, especially since the idea made her light up so much (and since her lighting up made everyone we knew happy as well).

So I hatched a plan. (Okay, more of a scheme than a plan.)

We'd sneak hard-plastic cafeteria trays from the dining hall, use them as sleds, and return them later.

But it turns out the workers didn't want us taking the trays out of the dining hall.

So elaborate plans were drawn up.

Diversions were planned and executed.

Trays were tucked into backpacks and under shirts.

And our small group, 11 guilty-looking nerds and the girl who grew up in the Rockies, tried to hurry through the door and out into the fresh snow.

But just before we made it to freedom, the seemingly ancient woman who guarded the door called out: "Stop."

And we all stopped. We sheepishly turned back, prepared to give up the trays.

The girl from the Rockies stepped forward. She started to speak. I knew she'd take the blame for all of us.

But the seemingly ancient woman waved her off with one wrinkled hand. "Do you think I'm stupid?" she asked.

We shook our heads and shuffled our feet.

"Good," she said. "When you remember this, remember that I was nice to you."

We stood there, unsure what she meant until she added "You better bring all those trays back this evening."

And we did.

Years later, I remember the snowfall and the act of sneaking the trays out of the dining hall. I remember the girl from the Rockies. But as much as I search my memory, I can't recall the actual sledding.

But maybe that's okay.

Because right before we brought the trays back, she took me aside, and she kissed me and she thanked me for being the only one who understood what the snow meant to her.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another Grey Area: I Used Graham Parker for Evil

Not Your Usual Xmas Present, part 1

(Recorded from the audience, so forgive the bit of crowd noise...)

I Used Graham Parker for Evil by Alex M. Stein

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Clothes, My Hair, My Face

Nothing But Tired, part 2

She lived on a mountain.

Her house was built at an angle, so it became part of the rock of the mountain. And her soul also was tilted, also attached to the mountain.

She thought nothing of living at an angle, thought everyone did the same thing.

Until one day when she followed a goat down the mountain. And wandered into a village.

It wasn't even big enough to be a town... and certainly wasn't big enough to be a city.

But there were people there.

And music.

And exotic foods and drinks.

For a girl who lived on a mountain and was used to adjusting everything so it would work at an angle, this was a revelation.

And even after she returned to the mountain, she thought often of the village.

And of changing her life.

By going down the mountain. And dancing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Won't Find It Fantastic or Think It Absurd

When the gun in the first act goes off in the third...

There's a place.

It's far away. And probably long ago, if we're being literal.

And in this place, there are people who look like you.

There's a library there. Go too deep into the stacks and you'll find anything you're looking for.

But you can't check any of the books out.

You have to stay there and read them.

And you might think this is less than helpful. And you'd be right.

But since the last time you were there, you notice that the library has burned to the ground. And all the people who live nearby refuse to admit there was ever a library there.

Even though there are ashes on the ground. And embers that threaten another conflagration.

And when you pick through the ruins, you wonder what happened to the people who used to go there. The people who look like you.
Frankenstein by Aimee Mann on Grooveshark

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What is it with the 80s and Paint?


Was there some kind of massive surplus of paint that history has failed to record?

And I know Brazil has different environmental regulations, but is it ever a good idea to pour paint on a beach?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nothing But Tired

Wanna Change My Clothes, My Hair, My Face

The quality of the light, you say.

The quality. Of the light.

But the light is long gone. It's the middle of the night, the middle of the winter.

And you're walking, alone in a group. In a city far away.

Looking for something.

Food. Drinks. Companionship.


But the wind starts to blow and you put on your hat and can't hear much of the conversation anymore.

The conversation about the quality of the light.

You won't sing karaoke tonight. Even if your throat didn't feel like razorblades you wouldn't want to sing.

But you might. You might sing.

Thinking, hoping, that might provide some small warm light in the dark, cold, night.

You let your thoughts wander, figuring out the perfect song -- one you could sing reasonably well, but still one that would sustain your ironic detachment from irony.

But there is no karaoke. Not that night.

And the three hours of sleep don't help your throat and barely help your mood.

You're still starving, looking for something that will satisfy you, not willing to take in the empty calories held out for you.

Still, today is another day.

Filled with quality. The quality of the light.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Across the dial from Moscow to Cologne

This story starts with a girl.

Now, arguably, all stories start with a girl.

But especially this one.

A girl. In knee-high boots.

Standing in the corner at a party.

And talking about poetry. The lines of a haiku. The imagery of the Beats. The way a stanza stretches and curves to accommodate the listener. The fragrant sultry popping of P words and the lush liquid sound of the Ls.

Long after she's gone, the conversation lingers.

And you sit in bed at night, listening to the world. Wondering if she's listening to or if she's at another party. Enchanting the guests with her talk of poetry, her poetry of talk.

Or is she obvlivious? Spreading her gospel of poetry, then moving on to the cool ascetic prose of a monastic life?

It's hard to know.

But not impossible.

Years later, I saw her at another party.

Talking sonnets to the hostess.

So I asked her about the poetry, about the effects on the other guests, about the ascetic prose.

And she swept up her hair, curled a long length behind her ear, and looked at me quizzically. "I just like poetry," she said. "There's nothing magical or amazing about it, I just like poetry."

And she turned back to the hostess. And I saw she was still wearing the knee-high boots.

And I knew she was wrong.

Which somehow, at that moment, was the most beautiful and sad poetry of all.