@

Author’s Note:

My very first Nervous Breakdown post was for my  dear friend, Jett, who passed away a year ago. On this anniversary, I’d like to take a moment and say a few more words to him…

At the time of his death in 1795, Scottish lawyer James Boswell, author of The Life of Samuel Johnson, was considered a literary one hit wonder, a kind of 18th Century Buffalo Springfield. At that point the “Life” was Boswell’s only publication, and everyone just assumed it was the only thing he ever wrote.

First, a man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Finally the drink takes the man.”–AA refrain

We order some tostas and a couple cañas (6 oz draft beers).

The tostas are topped with a tender cut of red meat, grape jelly and leafy greens.

Toast, flank, and purple preserves.

We’re nestled into the corner of this tiny, crowded bar, trying not to look like assholes.

The initial separation is the hardest thing.

The tearing away from flesh, bone, and old habits.

corrosion of loss clots in my still unformed wings.

Somewhere a woman’s kiss lingers in my ghostly remains of memory.

The kiss smells of gardenia.


At least I can remember that much.

Remember that much of my life.


Even in death there will be these things I will always remember.

I will never die of forgetting.


As I rise, I twist in the wind.

Second-sight staggering behind, as I look down to witness the one I once was.

The one now crumpled alongside a lonely desert road.

Photob_3


Heaped and fouled in a pool of blood, I have a voice answering only to carrion.


It is only now that I want to erase my name.

Completely turn myself inside out until I resemble the morphine serenity of dreamed-upon clouds.

Photoc_2


But no matter how hard I try, all I can do is float higher.


Brushing past bird wing and the sun’s roaming gold, a pained smile comes to my face.

This lightness, this gradual rising is almost too much for me to bear.


Though soon comes calm.

And with this calm, no more fear.


No more fear of death; all this breaking from blood, body and time.

Photod_2


Again I smell gardenia.

That woman’s kiss lingering somewhere in my ghostly remains of memory.


I am comforted to realize that at least I can remember that much.

Remember that much of

Photoe_2


Even in death there will be these things I will always remember.

I will never die of forgetting.

Viewed from an altitude of 37,000 feet, the Earth looks a lot different than our everyday experience.

The majestic Rockies are a bumpy patch of acne. Mighty rivers look like static, crooked lines. Teeming cities become their smoggy, Google Earth counterparts.

We build our lives in these places, we take vacations to them, we photograph them in order to precisely relive their beauty at a later time. We make clear distinctions between desolate, flat farmland and the beauty of California, where mountains meet the sea.

But from high above, the differences between these places are blurred.

***

The place where I work is made up of several buildings that surround a courtyard. There is a pond in the courtyard and a small, man-made waterfall. There are trees and grass. And there is a also network of sidewalks in this courtyard that shuffles us workers between buildings.

On one particular sidewalk, there is a place where ants cross from one plot of grass to another. I often stop to watch the ants speed down their narrow highway, wondering where they are going with such single-minded conviction. Sometimes traffic increases, and their roads widen. Sometimes I find them in the process of dismantling a dead wasp, breaking it into pieces and carrying it back to their hidden home.

Occasionally misfortune befalls the highway, and the ants are forced to clean up a group of their suddenly-dead brothers.

Imagine what an ant-produced television news segment might be like:

“Yet another giant footstep kills hundreds on I-280! Field reporter Buggy Buggerson interviews surviving worker ants tonight at 10!”

To ants, an average rainstorm is like Hurricane Katrina. Thousands wash away. Hundreds drown.

Every time a kid knocks down one of their carefully constructed hills, the ants lose their homes and are forced to rebuild.

Your average drainage ditch is the Grand Canyon.

But size isn’t the only difference between humans and ants. We’re also a bit smarter than them. Right?

I mean, we can calculate the orbits of planets and the relationship between speed and time, but we still go around killing each other for money. Or turf. We strap on diapers and shit ourselves during cross-country drives to murder rival astronaut girlfriends.

Is it a blessing or a curse that our minds, powerful as they may be, are so influenced by emotion?

To a biologist, emotions are governed by mappable, electrochemical processes. They can be altered chemically or physically. I can trigger a release of dopamine by drinking alcohol. Doctors prescribe all sorts of drugs that influence (for better or worse) the brain’s delicate chemical balance.

If emotions are so easily influenced by mechanical processes, how should we define them? Are they really as special as we like to believe?

Admittedly, thinking of the world this way–from a purely mechanical point of view–is not very romantic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate. Romance itself is an emotion, in fact, a filter through which we interpret the world.

And yet these are the brains we have. How would we interpret the world except through these emotionally-charged minds?

Just because we humans imagine the universe in a certain way, just because we like to impart meaning on inanimate objects and places, just because we look for patterns in events that might ultimately be random, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily the only way or even the best way.

How do we know someone or something isn’t watching us like we watch ants, observing our human struggles with a sort of amused detachment and maybe a little pity…pity that our understanding of the world is so limited?

I wonder if we would better off knowing more or knowing less? If it turns out the universe is meaningless, if it really is nothing more than a soup of matter and energy brewing in spacetime, would you like to know exactly how it works? Or would you rather be oblivious, a worker trudging back and forth on the ant highway, day after day, blindly working toward a goal that will never become clear to you?

When you die, does it matter at all?

Does it matter even now?

For the moment I leave these questions to you. I’ll be chasing a little white ball around a plot of grass for the next few days.

-R

Start with Part One in which Lydia and I attend a police briefing, respond to an unfortunate situation at Burger King, roll a code 3, and embark on one of the most thrilling nights of our lives.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

Policecarbluelightsweb

Friday, April 28, 2006

10:25PM We leave the station through the back so we don’t walk past Lee and his friends again. I don’t ask Sarge about the SIM card. There is this part of me that doesn’t want to know. Lydia texts that they’re with the K-9 unit. I’m jealous. We’re heading out to a collision. When we get there I see two cars in the road. They’re both totaled. Paramedics are lifting someone onto a stretcher and there’s glass all over the road. It’s strange to watch people’s lives change like this, to know that wherever they were headed for the evening, it isn’t a destination they’re likely to make.

We stand around in the street with some other cops for a while. I try to look cool but it’s hard. I feel like a dork in my zip-up hoodie and sneakers. They’re all talking about the LAPD. Apparently, we’re on the border of LapDog territory. It’s kind of reminiscent of high school sports team talk. Neither seems to be much better than the other but there’s obvious competition and rivalry. None of these guys seem to envy the LAPD. They’re proud to be officers from the Wood.

11:15PM Back in the cruiser I glance at my phone. Wow, time’s up in 45 minutes. I’m disappointed. It’s been hours since we arrested Lee Anthony and I was really hoping for at least one more Code 3 tonight. We’re heading back toward the station. I text Lydia: Can u believe we’re almost done? Just as I hit send on the message Sarge responds to a radio call. Replacing the handset, he flicks on the rooftop flashers. Oh shit, your girlfriend’s in a pursuit, he says with a grin.

We’re off. We’re flying down Centinela and I fucking love it. The siren’s going, Sarge is doing that thing with the spotlight again, and I’m holding on tight.

Before I know it we come up on Lydia’s cruiser. They’ve got their lights and sirens on and they’re tailing an old beat-up Toyota that’s only going about 30 miles an hour. Sarge radios in that we’ve joined the pursuit. A pursuit! We’re in a pursuit! We’ll be secondary car, Sarge says to the operator. Fuck yeah, I think, secondary car!

Pursuit

Lydia’s cruiser stays right behind the suspect and Sarge and I are a bit off to the right. I can see Lydia’s blond hair in the back seat. We’re driving South on Crenshaw. I can’t believe we’re going so slow. I ask Sarge what he thinks is going on with the driver. Probably drunk, he says.

Two more cruisers fall in behind us. Now there’s four of us going down Crenshaw. We’ve all got our lights and sirens going and civilians are pulling over left and right. Sarge is screaming into the radio, manning the wheel with one hand. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited in my whole life.

The suspect drives straight through two red lights before meeting up with traffic, two cars deep, stopped at an intersection. Sarge’s seatbelt is off and he’s got one hand on his holster. The suspect rolls to a stop and Sarge has got his door open. He’s half-way out, screaming at Lydia’s car. He’s saying something about a bean bag, he’s breaking leather!

And then the light changes. The cars in front of the suspect start driving and so does he. Sarge slams the door and we’re off again.

I ask him what the bean bag thing was all about. It’s a gun, he explains, that shoots bean bag pellets. I ask him why we can’t just drive in front of the suspect and cut him off. You never do that, he tells me. You never know what’s going on with the suspect.

Three more cruisers have joined the pursuit. There’s seven of us going down Crenshaw. One of the officers is leaning out his window taking a picture of all of us with his cell phone camera. This is definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

We come up on another intersection and the suspect stops again. Just as all the officers are half-way out of the cruisers the light changes and we’re off again. I see Lydia look back our way and I wave at her. Sarge laughs at me and I realize I’m acting like a ten-year-old boy.

I turn my attention back to the suspect. I can’t believe he’s not stopping. What the fuck is he doing? There are seven, no eight cruisers behind him now. And shit, there’s a helicopter too! Is it a police helicopter? Maybe it’s the news. Maybe Lydia and I will be on the news! Should I call someone and tell them to turn on the television? My thoughts are racing a million miles faster than we’re driving.

Helicopter

The next light is red but the suspect turns right this time, down a darkened neighborhood street. The parade of cruisers is right behind him. He turns left at the next intersection. Maybe he’s going to his house? No wait, he’s stopping. He’s trying to pull a U-turn! No way! Where’s he gonna go? The road behind us is filled with cruisers! Sarge pulls up right behind him. The suspect tries to reverse to complete the U but Sarge drives right up on him, ramming his trunk with our front bumper.

Holy shit! We just hit the suspect!

I see the driver look up. He looks surprised. Then everything happens really fast. All the officers, including Sarge are out of their cars. They’ve got their guns pulled and they’re running at the Toyota. Someone pulls open the door. Someone else tries to shoot him with a tazer but I see it bounce off the door. Just before they pull him out of the car and onto the ground I get a good look at his face. He’s African-American, early forties. He just looks totally surprised. I realize that I probably have a similar expression on my face.

Beanbag_him

It doesn’t take them long to secure the suspect, to handcuff and put him in the back of a squad car. We spend the next half hour, all of us, out in the street talking excitedly and recounting the pursuit. Man, you girls got to see some action tonight! We hear this over and over and we nod enthusiastically. Right now, in this moment, Lydia and I want to be cops. I’m ready. Give me a fucking cruiser.

By the time we get back to the station it’s almost 1AM. We’re all still pumped up and stand around outside for a minute. Sarge and Lydia’s officers are making jokes about who’s going to write up all the paper work for the pursuit. They’re grinning and we’re grinning and suddenly I realize that it’s over. I want to hug Sarge but I see Lydia shake hands with her officers and I chicken out. We shake on it and I meet his eye. I know I’m not the only one who had a good time tonight.

The second Lydia and I close the doors to my car we’re babbling. We trade stories the whole way to the late-night Mexican place on Rose where I order a Tecate and a margarita. If there was ever a night to double-fist. My high lasts through the weekend.

My friends ask me if I would ever be a cop. Totally. I had no idea. I went into this really expecting to find a lot of racist, arrogant, ignorant, burnt-out, egotistical officers. I didn’t meet one. Instead I met a lot of people who sincerey like what they do, who like each other, who seem to genuinely care about the community, and who, once given the taste of the force, of the thrill, never want to go back.

And I have to admit, it’s been hard to go back to being a civilian again. I walked by the police station this morning on my way into the office and saw a couple of officers standing around outside. I walked by kind of slow, hoping they’d recognize me and call me over, that maybe I’d get to lean up against a squad car in my pencil skirt and high-heels and shoot the shit for a while. They didn’t notice me though.

Just now I heard a siren outside my window and couldn’t help but hop up from my desk to look out the window as a cruiser sped by. Oh shit, they’re rollin’ a Code 3.

Last weekend two friends of mine celebrated their 40th birthdays at Cal Skate.

When I was in elementary school and junior high everybody had roller-skating birthday parties at Cal Skate.

Roller skating was ubiquitous in the late ’70s/early ’80s.

As I was saying, I’ve been catching flashes of you today, curlers in hair, pushing that ancient lawn mower over our ancestral land (an acre of swamp), when there was nobody else to do it, so that I might muddy myself in it–playing football, groping neighbor girls, and whatnot. I’ve been catching sour whiffs of your dreaded stuffed bellpeppers today, your inedible spaghetti sauce—oh, and that other gruel, the one with the lima beans—and it actually smells good all these years later. Okay, better, it smells better.

Peppers

A Harley biker with some naked chick riding shotgun, running over a unicorn.

A wizard perched atop a bloodshot eyeball, rolling a pair of dice across a panther’s back.

Princess Leia from Star Wars, her thighs wrapped seductively around a giant corndog.

Anything with a marijuana leaf.

Photoa

On June 3, 2007, two thousand naked people gathered to be photographed at a parking garage in Amsterdam.

*This post is by Greg Boose and Claire Bidwell Smith.


GREG:

It’s common sense; it’s not just something you are told as a child and then realize is bullshit by the time you’re nineteen.

You don’t touch motorcycles that aren’t yours.

If you touch a stranger’s motorcycle, there’s a chance it could fall over.

And after that, only a variation of four situations can play out:


In Part II of This Post:

The big night had finally arrived: Party-time at Mike’s. Kathi was there. Copious amounts of booze and weed were there, too. What I didn’t tell Mike and Kathi, however, was that my brother was also present. He was in Mike’s bedroom, awaiting my signal–a few lines from that Foreigner song, “Hot Blooded”–to send him bolting for Mike’s closet, where he’d have ringside seats for the whole down-and-dirty.


Part III—The Final Chapter—The Score as Recounted in 33 1/3 RPM:

Once I’d belted out the lines to that Foreigner song I headed out, waited in my car, which was parked down the block.

I flipped on the radio.

As I listened to WMMR play rock block after rock block of Van Halen, The Stones, you name it, I thought about Mike.

Wondered how he was fairing with his de-virginizing.

Hopefully he was relaxed. Going with the flow. Glidey as KY.

Hopefully, he wasn’t petrified.

Hopefully, he wasn’t on top of Kathi, looking down at her with fearful eyes.

Crazed eyes.

Manson eyes.

Photoa


No, hopefully things were going well for my friend, Mike.

Hopefully, every move he was making was suave.

Debonair.

Hopefully, he’d suddenly become empowered with a strange animal 7th sense.

And hopefully, my friend, Kathi, was being gentle with this creature.

Taking him into her home.

Stoking him. Stroking him.

But also whipping the beast when needed, to really put him in his place.

Mostly, however, I wanted Kathi and Mike to share in an experience that would ultimately rank amongst the Top Ten in their Guinness Book of Flings.

Oh, and of course I felt a bit bad about pranking them.

But hey, it’s like DJ Pubes sez:

Photoc


Time passed.

The radio played Ozzy, the Grateful Dead, the Police.

Finally, I spotted Mike leaving his place to drive Kathi home.

I booked back inside.

“So how did it go?” I said to my brother, who was sitting on the edge of Mike’s war-torn bed.

He shook his head. “It was crazy.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

This was where things got really interesting. This was where my brother recounted the whole affair in a way that I’d never even considered.

He revealed the whole play-by-play through the songs that had been playing on Mike’s crappy bedside radio alarm clock.

“First,” said my brother, “they started making out to Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You to Want Me.’”

“Next, clothes started coming off to Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’”

“Then Mike groped Kathi to The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah.’”

“Then he put the rubber on to Van Halen’s ‘Animal.’”

Sure, I was way into my brother’s whole Sex D.J. approach to recounting the events, but I was ready to cut to the chase.

“What was playing when they did it?”

“Are you sure you wanna know?” said my brother.

I nodded.

“You’re not gonna like it,” he said.

“I don’t care,” I said. “Tell me.”

“James Taylor’s ‘Handy Man.’”

Photod


“Are you serious?” I said.

“Yep.”

“Jeeeeeeeezus,” I uttered.

To think that Mike’s finest hour had been christened by “Handy Man” was tragic. He should’ve had the foresight to purchase a decent stereo, where he could’ve had control over the musical accompaniment to his de-virginizing.

He should’ve been playing Deep Purple.

Or better yet, Pink Floyd.

That would’ve been just the thing to woo the sleepy-eyed stoner girl that was Kathi.

But no.

It had to be J.T.

Good thing they weren’t trying to have kids or anything like that.

Had it been encoded with “Handy Man” DNA, Mike’s sperm would’ve been all messed up.

Photoe


It would’ve been way too sensitive for this world.

It would’ve been forever lost inside Kathi, left to roam her uterine halls, scribbling love poems all over her pink walls.

* * *

A few weeks passed.

Then came a night when Mike, my brother and I were partying over at Mike’s place.

We were sitting on his bedroom floor, smoking and drinking.

Once again, tunes were provided by Mike’s crappy bedside radio alarm clock.

Photof


And wouldn’t you know, no lie, just as we’d sparked up a freshly packed bong, that song came on the radio:

“Handy Man.”

My brother and I lost it.

“What’s so funny?” said Mike.

My brother and I, still laughing hysterically, could only shake our heads.

“C’mon,” said Mike. “What gives?”

Once we’d finally gathered up our words,

Photog


We confessed to what had happened.

Of course Mike was pissed.

Of course he was mortified as hell.

But he did admire our initiative.

“I’m gonna get you guys back,” he said. “Don’t know how, but one of these days I will.”

To this day, however, Mike’s never been able to prank us the way we pranked him that night.

That’s okay. I’m sure one day he’ll get his due.

But until then, every time I hear that song, “Handy Man,” I can’t help but get all happy.

My face splits open with a great big greasy banana peel grin.

Photoh


Sometimes I even sing along with the words, as I recall my best friend’s de-virginizing.

And in those fleeting moments, as much as pop song time will allow, I also wonder what goes through Mike’s head whenever he hears that song.