Location: Utica, NY

I AM the stein that's half empty, half full; I AM the white veins in the sky of a storm; I AM the ivory tusk on the wall; I AM the ants in your pants; I AM burning France; I AM a brooding coffee cup island; I AM fitter, happier, more productive; I AM the sun burning holes; I AM the wraith of long gone; I AM the artist in the television; I AM throwing down; I AM picking up; I AM iambic pentameter; I AM 100 IM; I AM the pox on your socks; I have chicken pox.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Not so safe from my secret location somewhere in the northeastern United States, I can report to those who live elsewhere that we have been hit by a lot of heavy rain recently that blew up from the south. Tomorrow, they are predicting more rain from the west. Fortunately there was no serious flooding near me--a damp spot in the hallway leading to my secret bunker was about the extent of it, which is a miracle considering that my bunker is (literally) halfway below ground. There was more serious flooding in Washington D.C. and residents had to be evacuated from a town in Pennsylvania, but a damp carpet in a hallway is the worst I witnessed. I did, however, hopelessly gaze in horror as people stepped on the wet spot unaware that it was there only to be plagued with a wet shoe bottom. If I had had my video camera on me I might have surreptitiously recorded the plight of these hapless people and sold it to some voyeuristic website for lots of money.

But seriously. Even before it rained it has been hot and muggy and damp where I live and the rain actually brought relief even though it was from the south where all that dampness and moisture and heat originates from. Yesterday evening, as torrents of rain pelted the college campus where I spent the day sleeping and studying, I almost wished I had on a pair of jeans instead of the burmuda shorts I so carelessly chose to wear that morning. Not since two weeks ago have we had weather here that could aptly be called "good sleeping weather" and boy did it feel good, despite the fact that people not too far away were being drenched by the deluge.

As the hot and humid days drag on, my secret bunker hideout gets progressively more and more hot and stuffy inside. I have a fan that blows a powerful current of air through the room where I spend most of my time hatching my plots and schemes that will enable me to one day rule the world. But after a while it gets hard to think with the loud sound of the whirring fan blades and blast of air drowning out all my evil thoughts. It is not only downright hard to think with the noisy racket, but it is hard to sleep as well. The night before last I only slept three hours, and as the rain was claiming poor peoples' homes and dry shoe bottoms I was only half conscious of the mayhem. I was so sleep deprived that the whole thing felt like a long, realistic dream--except it wasn't.

When yesterday finally ended and I slept off my exhaustion, I woke clearheaded and was able to make sense of the previous day's madness. The wet carpet in my hallway actually extended into a corner of my apartment (I mean hideout) and made for a very soggy-feeling day. My uncle called me this evening and told me that he saw my hometown on the national news. When I went online to view the earlier news broadcast, sure enough there was a video of a restaurant being washed away by an angry, flooded river. And this was only a few miles from where I live. It seems damp carpets and wet shoe bottoms, which I previously suspected was the major extent of the damage close to me, were actually minor incidents in this natural mess. Pennsylvania towns got flooded and a college in my state (not mine thankfully) became a temporary shelter for evacuees. Tomorrow, state politicians are supposed to be visiting my town and other towns around to assess the damage and console the citizens.

Flooding happened close to me in 1995 when Sacramento was flooded by heavy rains. I was a senior in high school at that time, and I remember my political science professor turning on the TV in class and saying, "God, I hope my home's not flooded" as helicopter shots showed suburban homes submerged in more than ten feet of water. Devastating as this disaster was (Bill Clinton visited the destruction days later) I was removed from it all by a naive notion that terrible things only happened to other people. Even this time, as news footage showed a reporter standing in what should have been a parking lot in Pennsylvania that resembled a river, I was still numbed by a lack of actual experience with personal tragedy. After being tangentially affected by 9/11 I don't think I'll ever consider myself safe and untouchable again. The water that soaked a corner of my apartment shows that I was wise to think this. In a lot of ways I was lucky. Things could have been much worse. I could have arrived home last night and found my apartment filled with two feet of water and had half of the collected momentos of what has been a good life destroyed.

It is foolish to laugh at other people when disaster happens to them because eventually disaster happens to all of us. It is at these time that we ask ourselves questions like "is God humbling me?" or "am I suffering so other people can have faith?" I felt like I almost could have been in that predicament this time around, and I found myself praying to God to spare me, that the threat of being humbled was punishment enough for any sins I might have committed. All this rain and flooding made me realize how much I take for granted. I am fortunate to have a place to call home with a computer and a television and a constantly stocked refridgerator. If all that were to be washed away, I would be reduced to a vagrant or a refugee for whom survival is an hourly struggle. It is a position that no human being deserves to be in and I am glad that I didn't end up there this time. But it only makes me think--if not this time, then perhaps next time, or the time after that. I just wonder how many more catastrophies this nation can suffer before we all have been touched by a devastating disaster that we previously thought only happened to "other people."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cool myspace blog link.

Here's a link to somebody's cool myspace blog.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Slow Train

With the way events have unfolded for me this week I am reminded of the song "Slow Train." I do not know who wrote and originally performed "Slow Train," but it has appeared on a number of classic-rock albums--most noteably a late-80s live recording of Bob Dylan performing with the Grateful Dead (I say most noteably because I happen to own this recording and used to listen to it religiously as a teenager, so actually it is only most notable as far as my musical tastes are concerned). "Slow Train" is the first song on the live album titled Dylan and the Dead and the lp cover even features an old-fashioned train with two insets below it--one with a picture of the familiar rose-haired skeleton mascot of the Dead, the other includes a drawing of a much younger Bob Dylan still with his trademark bedhead look even in those days. The song kicks off suddenly with train whistles and withers out at the end with Dylan and Garcia humming the chorus softly (there's a sssllllloowwww....sssslllloooowwww...ttttrrraaaaiiiinnn, slow train coming) very much mirroring an actual train with its abrubt entrance and prolonged, faded departure.

A writer of abstract, abstruse poetry might say this song means whatever it means to the listener at the time they are listening to it. After all, Dylan's stoned handling of the lyrics is only half-intelligible at best and Garcias accompanying backup on the chorus sounds like he doesn't know whether he should be inhaling or exhaling as he sings--like, am I singing or am I toking right now; actually, where the fuck am I?). I would agree that much of the music I like to listen to means whatever it means to the listener at the time they are listening to it. I used to think Kurt Cobain was the best song writer that ever lived simply because I had no clue what some of his songs were about. For instance, the opening lines to "Serve the Servants" made absolutely no sense to me, so I figured he most be talking about some way over my head shit--and in 1993, when In Utero was released, just about everything was way over my seventeen year-old head. Just consider the first six lines from "Serve the Servants":

Teenage angst has paidoff well/ now I'm bored and old/ Self appointed judge's judge/ mother baby song/ if she floats than she is not/ a witch like we thought...

You get the picture. Music is very abstract: it makes complete sense while it makes no sense at all. It swirls around us and makes our senses come alive and then quickly evaporates and goes back to the realm is came from. It is our respite from work, commutes, sleep, play and everything else. Music is meditation, it is release, and to some, it is our Muse.

This summer for me so far has been slow. I only started working this week and I regret to say that I have not been reading much despite the fact that there are a number of juicy books laying around my apartment that are on my want-to-read list. For the longest time I have wanted to get lost in one after another of these books, but with a full-time college course load last Spring--and part-time school and full-time work in the Fall of 2005--they have just been sitting around my apartment in stacks next to my bed or on one of my two bookshelves collecting dust and taunting me day after day and night after night. While I have been taking an Italian class for the last four weeks and swimming almost a mile every day it would be a lie to say that these actions are responsible for my not having had time to enjoy a good book or two. All I have managed to read this summer is James Frey's My Friend Leonard.

So what does any of this have to do with the song "Slow Train?" Nothing actually. Now that things are finally starting to pick up for me the song "Slow Train" has been playing in my head non-stop like a CD track stuck on repeat. And remembering this song--I'll admit that I haven't listened to this song in probably over a year--made me consider what music means in general. This song is more than just a song to me. It is a memory. I bought the Dylan and the Dead album in the summer of 1992 when I was 15. My brother and I spent afternoons and evenings listening to it and reaped a pile of memories, the kind of memories that get embedded in your mind and soul and which you take with you into the next life. I listened to it alone in my room at night with the lights out and dreamed wide awake. It became the soundtrack of my life for that summer. Not just "Slow Train" but every single track on that album held some type of importance for me: "I Want You" became the anthem for the girl I had a crush on; "All Along the Watchtower" filled my mind with magical thoughts while "Gotta Serve Somebody" accompanied my incipient awareness that our sheltered youths don't last forever, that we will someday--maybe today--have to take on responsibility.

"Slow Train" stood out among the rest of the songs because it didn't sing about a concept like love or responsibity but because it spoke to me personally. The slow train in the song was me. My life was about to explode into full bloom, and perhaps the analogy of a train chugging along the tracks appealed to me. It could be far off or it could be right around the corner--but no matter what, it was coming and there was no stopping it. Even if a train is slow it eventually arrives. Sometimes it has to climb hills, sometimes it coasts down declivities. But it always makes it. Before me stood driving and dating and graduation and college and life and happiness and sadness and everything inbetween. But I was still 15. It was all coming but it was coming like a slow train. Whenever I think of unfullfilled expectations or missed opportunities I think of the song "Slow Train." It reminds me that whatever crap I have endured or whatever events I might have missed, there are still good times down the road.

The timing of this song coming back to me now is in no way coincidental. I have been flopping around a lot lately and the brain burn is starting to kick in. As I write this I find it hard to cull my lexicon for words that seem to fit. All my TV watching and Gameboy playing and sleeping have left me with a great big hole that feels like writer's block, only it isn't. I have let things slip since school let out and now I am getting rusty. Things have been slow but they are now just starting to pick up again. I can hear the whistles off in the nearby distance. There is a slow train coming. I know its mine.

Now, a poem:


He was a slow train
his pistons pounded
like a brain
and the sound
of the crescendo
was like rivets
of steel rain
hitting the ground.