Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review

If you haven't already, please do read Elif Shafak's novel The Forty Rules of Love. If you have read it, please read it again. Then read it backwards and in translation and while you spin and spin and spin.

Image by Rumiwater

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Getaway

So what if Riva Lacey has just gotten pulled over for speeding? Today, she won Best Actress at the 2021 Idols of the Universe Awards. She sucks her teeth and studies her manicure. Sunlight glints off red lacquer.

Officer Joseph Theodore Patton grips his urge to smash the black corvette’s window. Oh, how’d he like to yank this rich asshole out of his car and into the ditch; instead, he gently taps one knuckle on the window.

What? He recognizes the famous teen idol, Riva Lacey.

This was her first time ever getting pulled over in two-years of driving. Riva assumes she’ll evade punishment. Seducing a police officer should be cake compared to the effort she made with the director.

“Young lady, you were doing one-twenty.” Officer Patton removes his sunglasses. His eyes could win a stare down with Death.

Unintimidated, Riva pouts. She arches her back and puffs up her chest, giving him a generous view of her endowment.

“That fast? Sorry. Sir.” She exhales, summons desire to her brows and lips, and locks her eyes on his; she visualizes his mystic lover pressing him to kiss her. Method Acting works every time.

But the officer’s gray eyes remain like isinglass.

Officer Patton tightens a fist behind his back, “I hope you have a license.” The officer’s livid tone tests Riva’s confidence in her powers as The International Seductress of the Silver Screen.

“Every woman must want you to gun her down. Yo, babe! Justin Bieber’s got nothing on you, Yo!” She hands over the license. Their fingers touch.

“Ms. Lacey. Flattery is not going to get you out of this. Now, your vehicle registration should be stored in the glove compartment.” Patton’s fury churns his guts, but he works to suppress it. He doesn’t care if she is a celebrity; he never lets anyone off without a fine.

“Right.” Riva flips open the glove box. Confetti, balloons, bells, bobbles, and candy burst out, as if the glove box were a broken Piñata. Among all this party stuff lay a white envelope with Happy Birthday, Rivkah. Open this now! written in her mother’s elegant hand.

With Officer Patton’s patience spent, he uses every coping mechanism they’d taught him in anger management class.

“Oh, Mom always surprises me on my birthday. Like, when she gave me a pony, I found the breeding papers in the pocket of my bathrobe. Last year, I bit into the keys of this car; they’d been baked into the cake. Now. This envelope contains this year’s gift.”

To keep calm, Officer Patton inwardly repeats the word “Easy.” His hand fondles his gun. He breathes. He doesn’t want to repeat the slip he made earlier this week when anger made him beat the Prescott boy. Two incidents in one month wouldn’t look accidental.

Riva forgets all efforts to seduce. She works up courage. “This envelope reveals results of a paternity test that my mother has been keeping from me all these years.” Riva pauses, genuinely contemplative. “Mom thought it better that I don’t know the identity of my father until now.” Riva stops acting and turns real.

For reasons Officer Patton cannot fathom, he suddenly grows strangely chatty. He says, “Hey, I wish I had never known my own violent father.” Stunned he’s just spoken so frankly, he zips his lips to the soul.

But Riva doesn’t hear him; she babbles on her own thoughts. “And he doesn’t know of me, apparently.” She looks at the officer. “You know. Thousands of journalists would kill to be in your shoes right now, sir.”

She unfolds the document. Pauses.

“Says here that my father’s name is Joseph Theodore Patton.” Riva sinks. Contrary to what she’d hoped, this name means nothing to her.

Riva had always hoped her father was Senator Stevens, or that Chargers Running Back, Mick Jobs.

Riva tosses the document aside and peeks in the glove compartment, curious; any other gifts?

Officer Patton shudders. All his anger turns to shock.

No. Not his one night? With…? Was her name Alicia or Patricia? Yes, now he remembers Patricia Lacey. She was his one and only effort at lovemaking. Afterward, he swore, never again.

Traffic races past while Joseph and Riva share an eternity.

“I will not issue you a moving violation, Riva Lacey. Happy birthday. Go. Be safe.”

Patton remains stiff. He watches her car accelerate onto the roadway. He waits until the reliable flow of traffic convinces him that nothing has changed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Plaintiffs' Lawyers' Meeting

(This meeting takes place in a law firm in the year 2050, when Corporate America and the federal government have been allowed to suppress all tort actions through sweeping tort reform.)

Two partners from the famous law firm Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe, LLP are thinking of ways to drum up some business.

Walls have ears, and now they happen to be listening—with some genuine interest this time—to the ideas being thrown around by Bill Dewey and Will Cheatem.

The walls overhear this conversation.

“But everyone who speaks any language invests in names. They were lied to.”

“Yes. L.a.n.g.u.a.g.e commits fraud. No one can be sure that he says what he means or she means what she says.”

“And no one can be sure his meaning is ever really understood.”

“Okay. Let’s file a complaint.”

“All Native Speakers and Non-native Speakers can be class members.”

“Imagine the attorney’s fees we’ll collect!”

Bill Dewey and Will Cheatem sit quietly satisfied for a few minutes. Their eyes sparkle with greed as they consider the economic potential of a lawsuit against Language.

Bill snaps his fingers and pounds a fist to the table, “Hey, while we’re at it—let’s file a lawsuit against Time.”

“The magazine?” Will Cheatem looks confused. “What fraud did Time Magazine commit?”

“No, you imbecile. We’ll file a lawsuit against Time, as in tic tock, tic tock. One o’clock. Two o’clock. Rock around the clock. Time!”

“Oh, yes. Time is also a big fraud. And people invest a lot of it doing lots of useless stuff.”

“Yes. Anyone who has ever invested Time in any useless endeavor could be a class member.”

“Yeah. Like picking up after messy kids. Why does that take so much time? Or scrubbing showers and toilets! Flossing our teeth. Standing in line. Idling in traffic. We invest way too much time in all that. What do we get in return?”

The lawyers at Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe want you to become a class member. They're kick-ass litigators who've never lost a case. They litigated that famous case in which that group of Bay Poets sued Cynicism and Irony. The case never had a chance to settl. Straight to court. Jury awarded 10.6 million dollars. Cynicism committed suicide. Irony is on the run.

Yes, Language shall have her day in court, and Time shall have his.

The sounds we make and the clocks we race against. Big. Ponzi. Schemers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Facebooked

You will not be able to log on, Users.
You will not be able to download or run on battery power.
You will not be able to lose yourself surfing the web, nor
Tweet your latest unexamined thought during your coffee break,
Because the revolution will not be facebooked.

The revolution will not be facebooked.
The revolution will not be Liked or Unliked, nor
Linked to your blog or your website or your Favorites
The Revolution will not show you pictures of Steve Jobs
Holding an iPhone and leading a techno crusade with Lara
Bingle, General Petraeus, and Dick Cheney to eat Kofta Kebab confiscated from Taliban strongholds.
The revolution will not be facebooked.

The revolution will not disclose its financial statements and will not be offered to Goldman Sachs investors.
The revolution will not star Natalie Portman or Elmo and Abby Cadabby.
The revolution will not make you more effective in bed.
The revolution will not get rid of bed bugs.
The revolution will not help you tone your thighs because the revolution will not be facebooked.

You will have no status to update, no photos of
out-of-touch friends bouncing babies—cuter, healthier, and smarter than yours—on their stronger, non-arthritic knees. Disney will not be able to re-release The Lion King in 3-D to take in $22 million at the box office.
The revolution will not be facebooked.

There will be no YouTube clips of NYPD pepper spraying female protestors.
There will be no protests,
for or against, building mosques in lower Manhattan.
There will be plenty of knuckleballs way more elusive than Tim Wakefield’s, but the revolution will not be facebooked.

Dancing With the Stars, CNN, and Glee will no longer be so damned relevant, and people will no longer care if the Amazon tablet can compete with the iPad because natural disaster victims will be in the street looking for a brighter day. The revolution will not be facebooked.

There will be no Farmville and no “View all Comments” and no deals to stream content from DreamWorks Animation. The theme song will not be written by Byonce, and Steven Spielberg will not be the executive producer. Wilco will not play a 24-song set that includes songs from its new album. The revolution will not be facebooked.

You will not have to worry about the elephant in the room or red states versus blue states. The revolution will not be available on Blu Ray or in high definition or as an eBook. You will not upload the revolution app. The revolution will not raise life expectancy. The revolution will not be suffering from obesity or diagnosed with ADHD.

The revolution will be local, intimate. The revolution will put you in the pilot seat.

The revolution will not be facebooked, will not be facebooked, will not be facebooked, will not be facebooked. The revolution will not be facebooked, Friends.

The revolution will be inside you.

(Note: This is a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron; please click on this blog post's title to listen to his words.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Turning Humble Servant of Divine Love

One day, Housewife said to Breadwinner, “I am converting.”

Breadwinner said, “You’re kidding. What about our family? Your career? Our reputations?”

Housewife insisted, “I want to whirl. I want to write verses dedicated to Love.”

Breadwinner said, “You mean…?”

Housewife said, “Yes. We shall divorce. I must leave in order to merge with the Void.”

Breadwinner said, “Okay. So, convert. But we needn’t divorce. Okay? I can love a Muslim woman.”

Housewife said, “Yes. You’ll find someone.”

Housewife whirled around, turning humble servant of Divine Love.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Promiscuous Wallet

Money says to Wallet, “I must be going.”

Wallet begs, “Stay!”

Money grabs his coat and hat. Wallet bends over to tie Money’s shoes. She breathes on the toes of the fine cordovan, shines his shoes, and says, “Please stay. I love you. I need you. I can save you.”

Money says, “No. I must go out and be in the world. I’ve got an Economic Empire to build, to run.”

Wallet sighs.

Money continues, “Don’t be so sad, sweetheart. I don’t want you to save me. I wouldn't and couldn't stay with you, even if you could make me. I won't stay.”

Wallet releases Money from her dark embrace. “Goodbye.” She says.

She waits. Emptiness.

At the end of the month, she gets her pay period. She is fulfilled once again.

Now, Wallet greets More Money, saying, “Hey there rich fella, you like the smell of my leather…?”

Monday, August 01, 2011

With Liberty and Justice For All

Vivian Martinez lived in a Latino neighborhood in San Diego and had always dreamed of getting a college degree.

Some time ago, a school called Success University opened in her neighborhood.

At SU students had an opportunity to pursue a B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., M.B.A., and even a J.D. degree.

Vivian Martinez saw this as a boon because, for years, she had been trying to enroll in community college courses that were not accepting any more students, as the community college budgets had gradually reduced to barf.

And Success University, a proprietary college, promised Vivian Martinez the American dream.

Success University’s recruiter used attractive words like, “guaranteed job placement” and “a career in the legal industry that pays six figures.”

Through her eighteen months as a Success University student, Vivian Martinez often met with her Law and Ethics instructor, who also happened to be her career advisor. Professor Jackson, that’s what students called him though he didn’t have a Ph.D., offered Vivian advice on how she should search and apply for jobs in the legal field. Andy Jackson had a degree in Environmental Policy; but, after graduating summa cum laude from University of Southern California, he couldn’t find a job in that field. Fortunately, Andy was married to an influential partner at a prestigious San Diego law firm. Just because he was married to a lawyer, Success University hired Andy Jackson to educate its law students.

After completing a B.A. and J.D. program in eighteen months, Vivian Martinez secured a job as a receptionist for a service called Human Billboards 4 Hire. Vivian answered phones at a small office that helped place qualified candidates in temporary jobs waving signs on street corners to attract motorists to sales in strip malls. This receptionist’s job paid minimum wage with no benefits, but it was the best job Vivian could secure with her J.D. degree from Success University. As it turns out, Success University never received regional accreditation, and Vivian’s degree—while it costs her a fortune—amounted to little more than a farce.

Vivian Martinez wanted to sue Success University for fraud, but she could not. She had signed a contract that included a sneaky arbitration clause. While the arbitration clause was obviously unconscionable, the U.S. Supreme Court of that era did not deem SU’s arbitration clause unconscionable.

Vivian tried another approach. She formed a community alliance of people in her neighborhood who had suffered similar humiliation: they all had useless college degrees and overwhelming debts. They protested and demonstrated and educated prospective Success University students about this shady business and its shady arbitration clause. Unfortunately, other neighbors who had secured employment as Staff at SU were able to squelch Vivian’s community group.

However, a renowned Professor of Education at Ivory Tower University in New York City somehow caught word of this scandal (wasn't it through a friend of a friend's Wall Status on Facebook??). Professor Augustus Longfellow knew that a “university” that uses a for-profit business model to sustain itself loses sight of its goal to educate students. Professor Longfellow chose to abandon his enviable, high-power post as Chair of the Education Department at ITU and moved himself and his family to San Diego.

He bought a charming craftsman style home—a short sale—in the center of Vivian’s neighborhood. After he and his green thumb wife fixed up the place, Augustus started offering free lectures in his backyard, a lush garden full of fruit trees, rose bushes, and succulents. Everyone who attended the lectures walked away with a clear understanding of the difference between getting a degree and getting an education. Professor Longfellow invited everyone back to his yard again and again over years, over decades, and over centuries. He lectured, he asked questions, he discussed, and he professed. His students read and thought about and wrote about every word of every Classic. They memorized The Canon. They challenged The Canon. Soon all the people in Vivian Martinez’s community were using their minds to think about stuff.

In the end, all the for-profit colleges and universities disappeared from the face of the earth, and the whole world embraced Professor Longfellow’s model for free, garden-variety education for all.

The United States of America even changed the words in its Pledge of Allegiance to say “I pledge allegiance to the flag blah blah blah… With affordable health care and education for all.”

At last, everyone agreed we should replace the words liberty and justice in favor of more practical health and education because, let’s be honest, liberty and justice elude us all.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Story Suggests Beta Males Endure Stress as Scapegoats

My husband, Nate, is a behavioral researcher who collects fecal samples from baboons.

His boss is Hubert Murdash, emeritus professor of evolutionary biology at Stanford and senior author of a new report that suggests—contrary to what women assumed—men are not baboons.

The day before this important report was released—a report that would shake fundamental knowledge of biologists everywhere—I begged Nate. I pleaded with all my strength. I implored Nate to come clean and tell the authorities exactly how he had gathered evidence for the study.

See, I hope you can understand that I had just been so worried about my husband’s health. He had been acting so strangely since he started working as a researcher for Murdash. Who knows what inspired Nate to stray from the standard procedures of collecting fecal matter and studying that matter for stress hormones? Instead, my husband hacked into baboons’ cell phone voice messages, e-mail accounts, and facebook pages. My poor dear; he’s so conflicted. On one hand, he feels awful for invading the baboons’ privacy. On the other, he feels it necessary for the advancement of science. Scientific integrity is so much different from, say, journalistic integrity. When it comes to discovering something as important as—Men are not baboons—it is important to use whatever means necessary to prove the scientific truth. Besides, is hacking into phone messages really any less intrusive and humiliating than collecting and studying fecal matter (not to mention less fragrant)? That was Nate’s view on the matter, anyway. But I could tell that this corruption was torturing his poor soul.

Well, I’m sad to report that Nate went to work the day the report was released, and he hasn’t been home since. I suspect he's still out carousing with his cronies, the baboons. I just hope The Press doesn't catch wind of this hacking scandal. Old Murdash would get heat, and only Nate would be blamed for everything and lose his job. We need the income. So, let's just all nod and quietly agree Men are not Baboons.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Three Months to Live

Daniel Castro is a day trader who sells futures contracts in Light Sweet Crude.

Daniel enjoys life with his wife—he finally won her heart ten years ago when he’d made enough to buy her The Ring she’d wanted—and his two small children—they’d finally been able to create them, after big help from the fertility clinic.

Though he’s got a trophy wife and chess-champion kids, what Daniel is most proud of is his Tax Break.

He pays 2 percent on all his profits. Only two percent! One. Two.

Unfortunately, yesterday, Dan went to see Doctor Hugo Blackman for a routine checkup.

Daniel received bad news.

Daniel Montgomery Castro has three months to live. Stage 5 cancer. Spread everywhere!

Still, Daniel Castro can’t help but remain proud of the fact that he only pays a two percent tax on his profits.

It won’t be easy to face the truth of his mortality, but Dan likes to think he has a good sense of humor about all this. When his doctor predicted his death, Dan said to Doctor Blackman, “Watch out, Doc. Death is coming to get you, too. It’s just a question of who goes first.” Daniel’s comment made the doctor twitch and chuckle and feel a little odd. Mister Castro was right. Doctor Blackman had been so consumed with thinking of everybody else’s mortality that he’d started believing he was somehow deathless.

So, Doctor Blackman gave himself an exam; consequently, he has put himself on a strict diet of eating only Local and Organic Greens. Perhaps he’ll live forever, and if not—the good Doc tells himself—that’s okay too.

As a last request, Daniel tells his wife to write on the tombstone:
“Daniel Montgomery Castro, rest his soul, paid lower taxes than his doctor.”

Friday, July 08, 2011

Bernie Madoff Book Club

To become a member of the Bernard Madoff Book Club, all you need are deep pockets.

We are an elite group of readers who read all the novels that Bernie reads in prison. Our new book club promises to out-Oprah Oprah’s Book Club. Any novelist who knows what’s good for him will try to write the next big title that will win the readership of Bernard Madoff.

We manage your investments. We make your money work for you. So what if we breach fiduciary duties now and then, at least we read great literature.

The title we discuss at our next meeting will be Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

We’ll meet July 16 at 7 pm in the Ballroom at the Mel Weiss Library on Wall Street.

We ask for a $5 donation to cover the fee for renting the meeting space.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Zara & Meg

We met a child today. He was wearing Martial Arts garb. His name is Parker. He is enrolled in a Karate class at the local Dance Studio. Parker is Five. His two front teeth protrude over his lower lip when he tells you, "I do Karate Kicks!" His mother smiles. She knows. She says, “Yes. He’s certainly got some moves.” Her name is Zara.

My name is Meg. I want to become friends with Zara. We talk. We fall in love.

We organize playdates and orchestrate “Mom’s Night Out.” We meet at a wine bar called “Wet Stone.” We talk about this and that and fall more deeply in love. So, we decide it is time for us to coordinate a dinner. Without children. Just us. And our Spouses.

Zara’s husband is a Banker. My husband is a Lawyer.

My husband cooks up a feast. We eat Asparagus Risotto—mushrooms, tomato, black truffle, parmesan. We drink San Joaquin Pinot Grigio.

Dinner conversation is lively, full of compliments, repartee, and innuendo. But the revelation that Zara’s husband is a defendant in a case that my husband litigates, and looses sleep over, is far too awkward, messy, complicated, detailed, and involved to write down in a Flash Fiction piece.

The only thing that matters is that Zara and I choose to remain close friends, even if our husbands are financial enemies.

“Hey, we’re neighbors—after all—and our kids adore one another.”

This is what Zara and I say when we embrace. And (just between you and me) our so called “embraces” have become quite a bit more frequent lately.

But if push comes to shove, and my husband's Life is at stake, I will ax Zara. I promise. I swear. I will.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Zest & Gusto

My mother is Farm Woman. My father is a Chicago Cubs fan. When they arrive to visit their grandchildren in San Diego, they wear sweatshirts that say, "San Diego." My mother is wind blowing over cornfields. My father is powerful, rumbling jet engines over Midway Airport. My parents look cozy inside their cold shoulders.

My mother is a good neighbor. Her closest friends live in nursing homes. My father plays with gadgets in the garage, the same garage where I used to rock with my band.

While visiting San Diego, my mother repotted all the plants in our house. She groomed the garden and polished the silver. She tangled me and my father in a lifting feat when she had an inclination to rearrange some furniture.

My father brought a polyscientific basin, one of his personal inventions that never really sold, but a basin you can essentially use for steaming giant crab legs. My father used his visit to San Diego to raid my wet bar while my oblivious mother toiled.

After the crab legs steamed in Grandpa's Crab Steamer, we sat down at the table that my wife had lovingly set. Now, I watch my wife as she dips the crab legs into ginger soy sauce. She licks her fingers. She smacks her lips. She says something profound in French, like tastes this fresh as goddess lips.

My high school band? Well, back then we called ourselves Faceband. This was long before Facebook's existence. (We’re suing that bastard, Mark Fuckerberg, for lifting our name!) The Bass player in Faceband was Zuckerberg’s cousin, a guy named William Fairbanks, but the Guys all called him “The Bones.” God, we loved “The Bones.” He laughed with the demons, and he laughed with the saints! “The Bones” dropped dead fifteen years ago, and tears still drop from our eyes if we just say his name.

"The Bones" deserves all the money in the world for how brilliant a guy he was. But my wife deserves the award for Best Actress tonight because she put up with my parents with such grace that she had them rolling with laughter at a joke she told over the dinner table.

“One summer evening, a woman invites her neighbor for dessert. They slowly lick forkfuls of chocolate cake and sip peppermint tea. Soon their conversation meanders to a discussion of human anatomy. The woman says, ‘I think the correct name for the area between a woman’s dunghole and her honeyhole is muff flap?’

'No, it’s called a pluggy pal,' says the neighbor.

'No. muff flap.' The woman insists.

'I swear it's a pluggy pal.' And the neighbor folds her arms over her chest.

The woman and her guest get into a heated conversation, verging on disagreement, when the woman’s husband comes out to the garden. The woman and neighbor ask him, 'So what is the correct name for the area between a woman’s dunghole and her honeyhole?'


Laughter. Such laughter.

My wife told that joke in her French-accented English and charmed the whole family into bursting laughter. Even the little children joined to laugh for the fun of laughing. Sure after that joke, lots of tension broke. We were a laughing family. We shared food and wine and zest and gusto!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


In 1997, I started to study Mandarin. Back then everyone was talking about Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, things were getting a little too ironic for Alanis Morisette, and politicians discussed China as a trading partner rather than an economic threat. While road tripping with my college sweetheart, racing to New York City in a red Tercel, he taught me lyrics to a famous song from his boyhood in China. He taught me some Chinese phrases. Sunshine dropped below the Pocono Mountains.

When I spoke his language, I woke a sleeping personality inside myself. At the rest stop in Ohio, the three of us made love in that tiny car—me, my sweetheart, and my new Chinese Self.

Later, he said, “You should study Chinese. It will open doors for you.” He was full of youth and ambition. I was a rascal. Sure I am more grateful than Caliban was to Prospero: more than how to curse, I’ve also learned how to con.

Later, I studied Chinese in graduate school in New York City and pretended to be an academic when I was an artist. After we were married with children, we lived with his parents; I feigned kindness when I wished them back in China.

Recently, I interviewed for a position as a Chinese language instructor. When I arrived at a grimy preschool room in an industrial park in San Diego, the director, assuming the English name Grace, looked at me and said, “Oh, you are foreign. Foreigner cannot teach Chinese. Maybe make you office assistant?”

In the middle of the interview, she answered a cell phone call. Her phone’s volume was so loud I could hear every word the auto Claims Adjuster was struggling to communicate. Grace kept interrupting. She grew increasingly panicked that a stranger was trying to pull one over on her. Grace drives a 2010 white, convertible Mercedes Benz, and she squealed, “Big damage. Very big.” She moved the phone away from her mouth to say to me, “Oh, you can wait or leave if you need. I get into car accident and take care this now.” I waited a few minutes with my hand extended until Grace put the Adjuster on hold. As I shook her hand, I spoke this sentence in Chinese: I am The Monkey King’s daughter; of course I can teach Chinese. She looked puzzled, shrugged, and continued to protest into her phone.

As I was leaving, I looked over her car in the lot. Not a scratch. In the wake of feeling rubbed the wrong way, I cursed the effort I’d made to learn Chinese. How is it so difficult to land a job?

Oh, I thought, where’s my sense of humor? So, I flattened my nose up against the driver’s window of Grace’s car, breathed a cloud of my foreign devil’s breath over her glass, etched a double happiness character with my finger, and raced home to my family.

Whenever we meet a family whose children are American born Chinese, they insist, “You must teach your children Chinese because China is a rising world power.” Or “China is becoming the economic giant.” To me, learning and speaking Chinese have little to do with the People’s Republic. It's these doors that open and close in my face that keep teaching me something about myself.

Sure kids, learn Chinese. You will expose the secrets of the Chinese government, engage in pillow talk with future Chinese economists, and bring democracy and the rule of law to China. That is, if China will ever really let you in. Better yet, you children of all ages, do learn the language, any language. Forget about doors. Child, simply realize the fascinating personalities you carry within yourself and start talking to yourself in a foreign language.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Past Her Bedtime

You might have read in the newspapers—or was it the funny papers—about Yupeng Deng. His recruits called him Supreme Commander.

Well, now he faces 13 felony charges for fake military operation in the San Gabrielle Valley. (This is certainly not the only, nor the most interesting, fraud brewing in that Valley; I mean, somebody please do an investigation of that Dragon Boat Green Card Lottery. Yeah, some say San Gabrielle is a hotbed for fraudulent businesses and crooked schemes. Sometimes residents of that Chinese immigrant community can rarely trust that their own husbands, wives, and children are not just faking the relationship.) Anyway, Mister Deng recruited gullible immigrants with promises that they would receive U.S. Citizenship, immunity from any moving violations, and membership in any diner’s club if they gave him 300 bucks. This way Mister Deng created an army unit of Chinese immigrants, distributed U.S. uniforms, marched in parades, and convinced the recruits they were preparing for real training for the U.S. Army. In Mister Deng’s Army Unit, a group that was a registered nonprofit in California, a recruit could donate extra money to increase his rank or win medals or star pins to decorate his uniform.

The judge heard Deng’s case and ruled for immediate deportation.

Yupeng Deng is now on a plane that is taking off from LAX. All is safe. All is well. The stock market still rises and falls. The world is still messed up, but Yupeng Deng has securely fastened his seat belt and sinks into his airline seat on his way back to his native land. We might safely assume that his mother will not be proud, but we don’t know that for sure.

All we do know is that there is a woman with her baby watching that airplane from the terrace of their apartment in Playa Del Rey. She’s pointing out the plane to her 14-months-old daughter, who is fascinated. She’s saying, “Fei Ji! Fei Ji! Fei Ji!” because she knows some Chinese, and everyone insists she must teach that language to her baby. For Baby, what is special about tonight’s airplane sighting, an event she witnesses with glee at least a hundred times a day, is that the child is witnessing the event for the first time at night. Only at night does the aircraft take off shining its brilliant landing light, a light that outshines all the stars. When the plane reaches a certain altitude, the brilliant light quietly shuts off. The mother and child continue to watch the plane, now with its duller navigation lights merely twinkling, blending with the stars as the plane ascends into the dark.

“Bye Bye,” Baby says and waves. Baby blows kisses to the airplane. Mommy—who works for Wages for Motherhood, which also happens to be a nonprofit registered in California—follows Baby’s lead, mirrors Baby’s gestures, and waves bye bye and blows kisses. They wave bye bye and blow kisses and point and shout “Fei Ji” until the plane is out of sight.

Maybe someday Baby will meet and fall for someone like Yupeng Deng. Certainly Baby’s knowledge of Chinese language will come in handy then; that story might be interesting, but it would take too damn long to write. All we really need to conclude from the progression of this yarn is that Baby is awake way past her bedtime.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Vlad Vlad-i-koff

Vlad Vlad-i-koff is a winged creature, an eagle, as well as a non-violent, spiritual anarchist in the tradition of, say, Leo Tolstoy.

“Vladio,” as his closest friends call him, recently witnessed a rebellion. He was perched on a limb with his wings folded, minding his own business, when suddenly people started to scream and die. Witnessing horror has changed gentle Vladio for the rest of his life.

No more soaring over mountains. Nor more belly dancing with the clouds. No more eagle feathers slam dancing with the Easterly winds. No more gusts massaging his Avifaunian guts.

Vlad Vlad-i-koff marched himself over the million-mile Great Patch of Clover. Yes. He marched. Refused to fly. Refused to obey nature. What is the point? He wondered. He decided to exile himself just East of the Great Patch. He found a quiet corner, plucked himself one of his own feathers to fashion a quill pen with an italic nib, an instrument he is currently using to compose his Magnum Oprah. The title is Rebels and Children.

Vladio writes:

Rebels and Children is the love story between one man and himself, Omar Mu-hammer el-Ameerikah. Omar, ad-hoc leader of The Desert, falls in love with himself. When that love goes unrequited, Omar flees his native Desert to live a quiet life in rural Kentucky, where he drives around in a Jeep Cherokee and wins employee of the month at his new job making Hot Pockets. Taking on a moonlighting gig, Omar babysits for a boy prodigy by the name of Jimi Zap, a three-year-old who plays a mean electric guitar. When the boy plays for Omar, the former desert despot is shocked into a whole new consciousness. Soon local, envious yokels see the friendship forming between Jimi Zap and his babysitter, Omar Mu-hammer el-Ameerikah, and next thing he knows it, Omar is being pursued by World Authorities. Jimi chooses to help Omar flee Kentucky. What starts as the secret escape of one boy and his babysitter ends in the greatest revolution since Rock and Roll.

Now, the wingless, bearded Vlad Vlad-i-koff is certain his work will make the A list; but if that doesn’t happen, he hopes that at least his mother will enjoy reading Rebels and Children.

(a flikr rendering of Vlad Vlad-i-koff)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Remember that snowy night we went to a party in Bed Stuy? We cross dressed. We confessed. We digressed. Your name was Roxanne and Jasmine and Shealah. After some local freaks shoveled your car out of its parallel parking spot at three am (I had given them two twenties and wondered if that was enough), I invited you back to the Upper West Side where we climbed the dog shitty snow piles while we talked about girl bands and poetry and Mediterranean cuisine. We laughed and felt each other shake with my arm looped around your bruised elbow. I called you my African Queen. You said you wanted to dominate a white girl. Soon, morning broke over Central Park, spreading its warm curves over our roof deck. We sipped champagne, and you told me the truth. Your real name was Naomi Yvonne Carr. I screamed your name with joy, "Naomi Yvonne Carr!" And the sweet sound stirred over the snow drifts covering the parked cars on 73rd Street (We had re-named it Seventy Turd Street). You told me you were homeless. Your father disowned you and his grandchildren. Your men all left you broken and blue. Where are you now, Namoi? You still sipping cold coffee at the Galaxy Diner on Ninth Avenue, waiting for Paul Auster to leave his gorgeous wife for you? You know he would if he got one whiff of your bliss balmy fragrance. You'd set him to thinking. Because how a homeless woman with four children can keep herself smelling like jasmine flowers is still a deep mystery to me.

I never told you the truth. To this day, I do not know whose apartment that was on the Upper West Side. I was just grateful, that freezing cold night, those conveniently absent tenants had forgotten to lock their door.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


We the people radiate. The warrior rebels radiate. The masses radiate. The monarchs radiate. The refugees radiate. The Resting radiate. The survivors radiate. The spectators radiate. The reporters radiate. The rock stars radiate. The investors radiate. The infirm radiate. The poor radiate. The performers radiate. The oilmen radiate. The oppressed radiate. The diplomats radiate. The despots radiate. The healthy radiate. The hateful radiate. The envious radiate. The envied radiate.

Wonder why, when children cry, we say of them that they are having a “melt down.”

Children radiate. Naughty children radiate. Nice children radiate.

Earth pulses one warm, global Radiation Nation.

Yes! Keep radiating, raiding, rationing, reckoning, wrecking, wreaking, working, weeping, rocking, remembering, rolling, roiling, wrestling, rat racing, reducing, reusing, recycling, reeling, repeating, retching, rescuing, worrying, weighing, warring, worshipping, writing, risking, reveling, running, and readying for Rest.

You radiate. You radiate. You radiate!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mama O'Rama

Mama O'Rama has ten children.

She knows exactly what to do

When Mama O'Rama's baby cries, Mama O'Rama rocks him back to sleep in the family heirloom rocking chair.

When Little Buck complains he needs a playmate, Mama O'Rama plays Trainwreck with one hand and rocks her baby back to sleep.

When Becky needs some money, Mama O'Rama reaches in her purse to jingle some change with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other hand, and rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Benny needs a diaper change, Mama O'Rama stomps down her foot and uses her nimble toes to change the diaper, reaches in her purse with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other hand, and rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Bonnie needs to eat dinner, Mama O'Rama stomps down her second foot and uses her nimble toes to stir fry some veggies, stomps down the first foot to change Benny's diaper, reaches in her purse with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other, all while she rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Billy asks for help with homework, Mama O'Rama quizzes Billy on spelling, stomps down one foot to cook, stomps down the other foot to diaper, reaches in her purse with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other as she rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Bart asks for a ride to the movies, Mama O'Rama says, "No."

When Bessy needs help getting dressed, Mama O'Rama grows hairy, wild-thing arms out of the top of her head, (Lucky for Mama O'Rama, these two huge, muscular, beastly, lovey dovey, teddy bear, busy strongman arms grow straight out of the top of her head whenever she may need them. It's quite convenient and reliable but doesn't allow her to wear pretty hats!). With these hairy arms, Mama O'Rama buttons silver buttons down Bessy's back, says, "No ride to the movies," quizzes Billy on spelling, stomps down her one foot to cook, stomps down her other foot to diaper, reaches in her purse to jiggle change with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other as she rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Bella needs to hide behind her for protection, Mama O'Rama spreads her wings to cover the girl from the pouring rain, uses her hairy arms to fasten silver buttons, says, "No ride to the movies," quizzes Billy on spelling, stomps down her one foot to cook, stomps down her other foot to diaper, reaches in her purse with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other as she rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Buzz needs a shoulder to cry on, Mama O'Rama offers both of hers, spreads her wings to cover Bella from the pouring rain, uses her hairy arms to fasten Bessy's buttons, says, "No ride to the movies," quizzes Billy on spelling, stomps down her one foot to cook dinner, stomps down the other foot to diaper, reaches in her purse to jiggle change with one hand, plays Trainwreck with the other hand as she rocks Baby Buddy back to sleep.

When Bernard asks Mama O'Rama if she needs some help, Mama O'Rama says, "Yes. Please."

Mama O'Rama thinks it somewhat disconcerting that she has had to give birth nine more times before Bernard, her first born, finally offered to lend her a hand.

She gave birth nine more times just to teach Big Brother Bernard a good, solid life lesson, and do you know what?

Mama O'Rama is certain that she showed him.

The Wiggly Bridge

Lisa Field is a horticulturist, a renowned conservationist, and a revered meditation teacher. She never smashes insects, never curses, and never needs to go on a diet.

One day Lisa was working in her garden, minding her own business, when two little girls popped up out of nowhere and started tossing fistfuls of dirt at her. Lisa, having once been a mean girl herself, recognized this mischief and evil laughter and knew the girls were really crying for help.

“Where’s your mother?”

The girls stomped all over Lisa’s succulents.

“Mommy drinks Daddy’s booze and tells us to run along.”

Ever since then, whenever the girls show up, Lisa takes them with her on her assignments as City Gardener. This is her effort to save these children from Nature-deficit Disorder.

Today, they are planting poinsettias in the Kate Sessions Canyon. But first they must cross the infamous Spruce Street Bridge, a rickety suspension footbridge.

The locals call it the Wiggly Bridge.

Rumor has it that not one single soul has ever made it across that shaky bridge without getting a Wiggles tune stuck in her head.

Lisa knows that these children rave on about that nursery-rhyming band from Australia, The Wiggles. When they get to the Wiggly Bridge, the girls lean far over the suspension wires, stretching their necks to see if Sam, Murray, Anthony, or Jeff may be playing hide and seek behind the queen palms.

The girls start to sing, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”

Originally, Lisa had intended to walk slowly with the girls over the bridge, stopping now and then to point out and name different species of flora in the canyon far below. There’s twisted juniper. And there’s a blue cypress. There’s star jasmine. Lisa has always yearned to walk over all the Earth’s trails, paying homage to mother nature by teaching young children the names of all the wild things. Lisa wishes she could have children of her own. Alas, her partner, Rachel, does not want children.

Lisa could start to brood, or she could participate in the hot potato, cold spaghetti, banana mash dance steps the girls are doing to make the bridge sway and wobble. Lisa chooses to join the fun and quickly finds herself singing, “Dance the night away!” Her throat is a wild song, and the bridge is their perch. Lisa and these lost girls are birds on a wire. Lisa realizes she will need to teach them to fly.

Now, Lisa thinks she should be less concerned about saving children from Nature-deficit disorder and more concerned with recovering herself from Wiggle Mania.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Listening to Mardi Gras Playlist on Jazz 88 & Making Love in the VooDoo Garden

He played his tight swinging bass vamp all over her ass. He banged chords, repetitions, and trills all over her thighs. With his lyric stuffed in her mouth, she sang these words, "I'm a woman. I could make love to a crocodile. I'm a woman. I can sing the blues. I'm a woman. I can crush stone with a pin. I'm an earth shaker."

The neighbors in the next town felt their coital clamor.

He gave this one performance all of his best crying, growling, writhing strength. She repaid him with a cursing moaning hummingbird buzzing multi-phonics. Their ugly lovemaking was the envy of all beasts.

Their whiskey dreams jammed all through that night.

The next days of solos. She never heard his arpeggiated mournful glissandi. He never heard her sad trilling aria melting into blue arpeggios.

She thought souls slow lulls.
He thought so long soul lows.

Silently, they had promised that they'd meet again at that craggy coast around midnight of the year 2020.

He promises to thrill her G String with his wicked vibratos.

She promises to wreak orchestral havoc on his upright bass.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sons of Literary Men Who Pump Iron or Parenting and Body Building or My Mom Can Beat Up Your Dad

There's Andre Dubus III. There's Samuel Fussell. There's Paul Solotaroff. What do these men have in common? They are all sons of literary men. These sons have all written about, or "confessed," that having fathers who devoted their lives to letters, as opposed to devoting their lives to their sons, helped to rear sons who devoted themselves to body building.

Recently I heard a little story about a mother who devotes herself to writing. She writes beautiful little entries in her blog, on facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, MamaBuzz, and of course Twitter. She never feeds her children. The children go about plundering the yard, hunting for rodents and collecting berries; they play happy, unsupervised games and boast about how surviving orphanhood only makes them stronger.

This mother asserts hers is a superior parenting style. She is sure her children will grow up to be gold-medal Olympians.

And the world seems to agree with Mama Tweet because she's won a grant and a stipend and an advance to write a book.

Coming this May, the Raising Rascals Press will unveil Mama Tweet's book on parenting. The title of her masterpiece is SONS OF LITERARY WOMEN HAVE MORE MUSCLE THAN SONS OF LITERARY MEN.

I think they're all just a bunch of sons of bitches. I pump iron. My mom drove an ice cream truck while my dad stayed home with us six kids until he got MS and we had to care for him. I pump iron because I like to watch women in the gym. I bring my kids with me while I lift. They like to shout, "Go Big Daddy, Go!" Women at the gym get a big kick out of that. Shows them all how fertile I am. I hate to brag, but I'm HUGE.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Write Flash Fiction


There is a lot of advice and analysis and chit chat out there in print and in cyberspace about the phenomenon of flash fiction.

Just keep in mind, one need not get alarmed.

It is true that writing or reading flash fiction may or may not cause any one of the following: a collective shortening of the attention span, improved love life, loss of appetite, better understanding of the human condition, bed wetting, and fainting spells.

Recently, I came across a website that offers advice to writers about writing query letters to agents and editors. So the formula dictates that a writer give a synopsis of her book in the second paragraph of a query letter. Agents realize this is not an easy task, and whoever wrote this website advice says that as agents, "We don't envy you."

Today's Literary Agent wisdom claims that "Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph is worse than a root canal."

Summing up may feel like a root canal to those who don't write flash fiction, but for those who do--you know who you are--summing up is a walk in the park.

That's why.

Write on.

Dear Agents, You can envy writers now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Writing Prompt

Write about a guy who is enrolled in a creative writing program who maintains a website on which he posts daily writing prompts. Write about how this guy searches the web for ideas for writing prompts; but, instead of finding writing prompts, he finds a website that urges its visitors to adopt stray cats. Write about how the guy gets distracted and adopts a cat to give Mom for her birthday because she's so lonely since Dad passed. Write about how the cat wrecks Mom's house and brings in all kinds of weird rodents, birds, and odd critters that it kills in the canyon behind Mom's house. Write about how the cat, named Miss Priss, brings furry wild things, all gooey and limp, into her house and leaves them piling up in front of the refrigerator. Write about Mom being a retired paleontologist, and how she recognizes one of the creatures the cat drags in as a prehistoric species whose existence is hotly disputed amongst the brightest scientists. Write about how Mom phones her son, and they have a conversation. Write that conversation. After that conversation, write about how the guy who is enrolled in a creative writing program drops out of the writing program and enrolls in a paleontologist program. Meanwhile, Mom attends her very first support group meeting for substance abusers. Write about how Mom slowly realizes she must stop deceiving her son, and not just about Dad's passing but about lots of other things too. Write about lots of other things, too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

After reading Aimee Bender and Listening to Radio Head

There is a girl who is good with a needle.

She embroiders words upon her underwear. Intimate words.

This girl notices the boy who sings in a high school band. The band performs covers of Radio Head songs. The boy sings to the girl, "I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo."

The girl takes up her needle and needles the word SPECIAL onto her crotchless panties. She carves the word WEIRDO hidden somewhere in all that lace.

She seam stresses every curve and line of every letter of every lyric.

When she is done, she shows the skirt to the band boy. He casually strums his guitar, acts as if he doesn't notice; or, he doesn't get it. She is scared.

She tears off the skirt. She crumbles the skirt. She throws the skirt, her words, into a dumpster that floats in a rocky river.

He trembles. She thinks that a male person's trembling is eternally meaningful.

She dances before the band man, who maybe thinks she is not just another girl. She turns. She aches strange.

She drinks wine and grows sad.

She writes letters.

He thinks?

The night ends with a dream that he uses a strong, strange, hairy arm to pull her out from a deep, dark spinning bowl.

She feels? She wants hairy arms.

She thinks it must be so warm to have body hair to stay warm through the long winter.

She moves to a town in California where the word SWEATER is foreign, quaint.

She drinks wine and sunshine. She yields. She tosses away all knits and underwear. She yawns. She yearns.

For the needle, for hair, for nothing.

Sunshine and freeways uninspire her.

She gets a tatoo on her labia--the words WHAT THE HELL'M I DOIN' HERE?

The Coaster train whistles by. She's got a phony ticket east. She sits in a depot, staring down a glass of wine through the eye of a needle. A little boy teases her with his loaded squirt gun.

She embroiders the word BANG on her cocktail dress, smack dab in the middle of the the cock's tail. She loops her arm through the arm of her date to the company party, her bodybuilder.

She remembers, ages ago, giving a blow job to a disguised rock star in Strawberry Fields. But now she sips petite Shirah from Los Gatos and writes I DON'T BELONG HERE on the walls of the setting sun.

Sunset, outside these windows on Guy Street, looks like a trembling man before he fucks his passion. Hard, pink, rippling and brilliant.

When dark settles over this much beauty, everyone is relieved to fall asleep.