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You may have read this story, the one about 62-year-old Don Doane of Ravenna, Michigan. For more than forty-five years Mr. Doane was a member of the same bowling team. He and his teammates competed in a local league at the local lanes over at Ravenna Bowl.

SACRAMENTO, CA-

For the past several hours I’ve been staring into the darkness and begging myself to shutup so I can get a bit of needed rest. But I’m too anxious and my mind is racing. I don’t think I’ll be sleeping until this damn election is over. It’s not so much the presidential election that has me worried. It’s all of these ballot measures that are so important but have somehow been forgotten in the higher ratings mud-slinging and fear-mongering of the presidential candidates (Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still completely freaked out about the presidential election, especially after seeing all the crazies on TV and YouTube).

I cast my ballot about three weeks ago by mail and was then able to convince myself that I had done my part and I would just have to wait for the results. That was, until tonight (or, last night, as it were). I went to a Proposition Party with my boyfriend. No, this was not a party where people proposition you. It was a party where each person was given a ballot proposition to research and discuss with the group so we could each make educated decisions about how we will vote on Tuesday. And that’s when I realized how truly scary this election is, at least here in California.

The people who write these ballot measures are probably happy as pie that the presidential election has stolen the spotlight because some of their propositions are going to get passed just because people don’t know enough to vote them down. Before I voted I took the time to read the voter’s guide so I had a pretty good grasp of the issues when I voted (and I’m proud to say that I didn’t change my vote on any of the propositions after having them explained in more detail). However, those initiatives on which I voted ‘No’ are much scarier to a left-leaner like myself than I had previously thought.

Take Proposition 4, for instance. This initiative is a California constitutional amendment to make it illegal for anyone under age 18 to get an abortion without the doctors first notifying an adult relative. Or, in extreme cases, the girl can take her case to court and ask a judge for permission to get an abortion. Now, I can see how parents would think this is a great idea. And, really, it does sound pretty good on paper. I know I’d want my daughter to tell me if she was going in for an abortion.

But then, I’d hope my daughter and I would have an open and understanding relationship and that she’d be coming to me to help her through such a difficult decision. There are girls out there who don’t have that type of relationship with their parents (I know I didn’t) and whose parents would likely punish them and force them to make a different decision. And there are the cases of abuse. Or the cases where the girl would rather commit suicide than to face telling her parents.

Even so, I can see how parents can be worried that their daughters wouldn’t come to them with such a serious decision. What bothers me about this amendment is the small print (well, OK, the big print too. I obviously voted on this before I knew about the small print, but the small print would have changed my mind had I been leaning toward a ‘Yes’ vote). Small print: This amendment gives parents the right to sue doctors up to four years after they find out about an abortion, even if their daughter tells them after she’s an adult. This will likely raise legal and insurance costs for those doctors who perform abortions – even before they ever get sued. Also, this amendment would make public all judicially decided non-notification of parents, putting judges’ jobs in jeopardy if they judge too often in favor of girls seeking abortions.

And what about the whole going in front of a judge to ask for an abortion? Even though I know I have the right to choose, I still know abortion is an unpopular decision in America and I would not want to face the protesters and the public on my way to court. Nor would I want this to become a public matter. I can imagine that making the choice to abort a fetus is not an easy decision for anybody. And I, for one, would want it to remain a very private matter (isn’t this what got Roe v. Wade passed in the first place?). Forcing teenagers to make this public, even if just to their parents seems to violate everything the Roe v. Wade decision put in place.

Californians voted against this proposition in 2005 and 2006. Both times I sat at my computer refreshing the results screen every two seconds to reassure myself that the measure would be defeated. Luckily, this time around Proposition 8 (the gay-marriage ban) has somehow usurped the attention of the religious right and has kept the anti-abortion legislation out of the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t still going to be voting on it. And the fact that we haven’t been hearing much about it really scares me because it could be keeping the closet pro-choicers in the dark as well.

And this is just one of the issues that’s been going through my head all night. I’m still horrified by the abundance of anti-gay-marriage people there are still in this state – one of the bluest states in the union. In 2008. When I first saw the gay-marriage ban on the ballot I thought, “Yeah, but this is California. There’s no way that would pass.” But the last few weeks have really shown me how wrong I was. I’m terrified of these Yes on 8 people – not just because they’re voting Yes on 8, but also because so many of them seem to believe taking away civil liberties is the only important thing on the ballot this election season. I’ve seen interviews with some 8 supporters who say they don’t even plan to vote for president because that’s not what’s important right now. The presidential election. Not important. But taking away the right to marry is?

There’s also Prop. 3 and Prop. 9. And Prop. 6 and Prop. 7. There are so many propositions that sound great at first, but just below the surface there’s something there saying, “Neener, neener, neener! We got one past you!” And now I can’t sleep at night.

I know the world will keep turning if the election doesn’t go the way I want. I know all of the propositions will be challenged in court, regardless of which way they go. Or they’ll end up on the next ballot, yet again.

And I know we’ll survive four more years with an ineffective president.

I just want something more.

-Becca

P.S. I’m curious about what’s going on in other states. What are some of the big propositions you’ve got on your ballots?

I’m a filmmaker.

A multi-hyphenate.

Writer / Director / Producer is usually how it goes.

Except if I were to choose the order, it would be Director / Producer / Writer.

When I write, I prefer punchy, active sentences.

I don’t usually go much further than: Who? What? How?

Let everyone else fill in the blanks.

The person reading a screenplay has neither the time nor the patience for long, esoteric descriptions about the Hero’s freakish allergy to shag carpeting. Nor do they care to read extensive passages about the psychosomatic development of said allergy due to the heartache caused by one Love Interest after their first sexual encounter in 1978 in his Aunt Rita’s Airstream, which had not only the floor, but the walls lined with the stuff; and who, years later, coincidentally enough, happens to be standing across the room from Hero at a party. Unfortunately for Hero, he notices her just after having lost his trousers in a round of Strip Twister.  Having fallen on his pants-less ass in shock at the sight of her, his derriere begins to swell three times its normal size. (131 words)

FADE IN:

Hero struggles with his jeans and falls to the floor; his belt tangled around his ankles.

Shag carpet.

He cringes.

Flashback to the inside of the Airstream:  Against a background of warm, plush shag carpet, desperate teenage hands grope any available patch of sweaty virgin flesh.

He opens his eyes.

He sees…

Her.

She looks gorgeous.

Panic.

She walks toward him – easy familiarity in her azure eyes.

His ass begins to swell at an enormous rate.

Shit.

FADE OUT.

(Word count: 77)


Efficiency.

Economy.

Lazy?

Maybe. Maybe not.

“I would have written less, but I didn’t have enough time.”

Film is a collaborative medium. If you do your job right as a director, the actor and the camera can say volumes with the simple flick of an eyelash, an artful manipulation of the lens, and the lighting… oh God, the lighting!

A picture is worth one thousand words.

So what, pray tell, is one word worth?


For reasons unbeknownst to me, last November, I joined the insanity of writing fifty thousand of the little buggers for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo in the inner circles) and tried assembling those words into some sort of coherent order, hopefully with the aim of resembling a story.

Maybe it was because some friends were doing it. Professional novelists, mind you, all.

Perhaps it was because I had a story that I’d been kicking around and I thought it needed a little ‘fleshing out’ before turning it into my next screenplay.

More likely, it was because I had gotten drunk on Halloween and thought it would be something “fun” to do, while killing time at my insanely boring new temp job.

How hard could it be to write fifty thousand words?

It only meant needing to average one thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven words per day.

Piece of cake, right?

If by cake, you are referring to some sort of Red Velvet cake from Hell that used blood, vomit and vodka (not necessarily in that order) as its primary ingredients instead of red food coloring, buttermilk and cream cheese frosting, then, yes. It was a piece of cake.

(Note: cream cheese frosting could be used in either scenario.)

I started with a bang and on the first day wrote one-thousand, eight-hundred and six words. One-hundred and thirty nine above average.

Above average. Whee!

It took me three weeks and several sleepless nights to get myself back ahead of the word-count game. I mined emotional graveyards. I ran a Marathon down Amnesia Lane. I pulled out old letters, photos, journals, yearbooks; trolling for names, memories, events, people, clothing, bad hair; anything to give fodder to the Muse.

I wrote every waking moment that I was coherent. On the subway, at work, on the toilet… I wasn’t necessarily typing all the time, but I couldn’t escape this story that had caught hold of me, filled my pores and was oozing from every orifice. (Ew. Gross.)

I cried. I kicked. I screamed. I drank. I hid. I stamped my feet and held my breath. I wrote long, passionate essays that had absolutely nothing to do with my characters or could contribute in any way towards my word count.

I drank some more.

I turned to the Internet. I struggled to resist the urge to up my word count with Ye Olde Cut-n-Paste Institute of Writing, knowing the Apple-C/Apple-V keys would magically conserve innumerable keystrokes and save me the carpal tunnel physical therapy sessions.

I vowed not to cheat, but in desperation, some of my characters found themselves singing entire stanzas of Van Halen’s classic, “Hot for Teacher” or Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur” (124 words). There was a wedding announcement ‘published’ by the local newspaper (987 words) and passionate outpourings that had once been scribbled in juvenile journals in turquoise, raspberry-scented ink, complete with open-circle-dotted “i”s found themselves suddenly converted into 12-point Courier (3,706 words).

Anything to get those fucking numbers within spitting distance of my fellow scribes whose little blue word-count-o-meters were blowing mine out of the water. Me, a mere scribbler.

And then, I fell in love.

I took the time to get to know these people. Sat down with them. Shared a few pots of coffee and handfuls of peanut M&Ms. Got under each other’s skin.

And like magic, my characters found their voices. To be certain, many were reminiscent of our favorite American Idol disasters, but a couple had some serious chops. Pav and Callas (R.I.P.) would be proud to share the stage.

Subplots emerged from the ether. Main plots got resolved. Not every ending was happy. Not every ending is.

But the demons; they got exorcized.


Long story short:  I made it.


Fifty-thousand, two-hundred and fifty-four words. In thirty days.

I abandoned my friends, gained three pounds (the M&Ms, maybe?), refused calls from my mother and wrote throughout the entirety of the WGA strike.

All for the sake of fifty-thousand, two-hundred and fifty-four separate assemblages of letters that were strung together into some sort of coherent order, resembling a story.

A novel.

I wrote one.

I’ve learned the value of a word.

If you asked me to define that value, I could write another.

Fifty thousand and more.

But I’ve decided to save my words.


Efficiency.

Economy.


I’ll need them if I decide to finish the damn thing.

The title is the beginning of “Heavensgate”, by Christopher Okigbo, the greatest modern Nigerian poem, and I think the greatest modern African poem.  Okigbo is my patron saint, and my personal Janus (he died in the war that gave life to me), so it’s appropriate to pour out for him before I take a draught.  The second proper and good thing for me to do is to introduce myself.  I’m Uche Ogbuji, computer engineer and aspiring poet (I think I have a fair bit of skill with verse, but I set pretty daunting standards for myself).  I recently started reading TNB, following my dear friend Erika.  I’ve enjoyed my time here, so I was thrilled when she recommended me to Brad as a contributor, and twice thrilled when Brad welcomed me.

Whirlwind

By Sung J. Woo

Essay

Fourteen years ago, I started an online magazine. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal now, since anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can create an online presence, but back in March of 1994, it wasn’t so easy. Because Netscape Navigator wasn’t even at 1.0 — it was in beta. And Internet Explorer didn’t exist. Email ran on mainframes and VAX machines, and Gopher was the protocol of choice when it came to delivery of information in a menu-like interface. Anyway, I had to come up with a name for the magazine, and I chose Whirlwind.

Lately, I’ve been having this urge: I want to start a fight.

I want to step inside the ring, look into the liquid abyss of my opponent’s eye, and kick some butt.

I want to approach her as if I’m going to tell her a secret, and then hit her with a roundhouse elbow.

I want to insult her mother.

I want her to hit me back for real.

I want to call out my demons one by one and see her face contort as they come forth.

I want to work up a lather.

I want to start a fight club.

I want to pull her hair and call her a cheater. A lowlife. A yellow bellied marmot.

The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.

I would break that rule.

I want her to act all huffy with me, like she has no idea what I’m talking about. But she does. She knows all about it. The pussy.

I want to run up the front of her body and do a back flip off her chest.

I want to observe spittle as it flies through the air, catching the light into a rainbow of death from the one uncovered florescent bulb above us.

I want to feel the satisfaction of watching her struggle to get up, and flop back down like a fish.

I want her friends to come running to her defense. I would take them all one by one. Two at a time. Three for three.

I want to send them flying like they did in ancient China.

I want to strain a muscle.

I want to be able to feel it the next day.

I want to make strange noises at the back of my throat and have my speech come out at a different pace than my lips.

I want to wax on wax off and paint the fence simultaneously.

I want to bust out of the ring and out through the doors. Head on down the street. Rough up an evil punk dressed up as a businessman talking on his cell phone. And an elderly woman. But the elderly woman would be an accident. I would help her back up.

I want to feel the horrified gaze of strangers as they watch the bodies hit the sidewalk all around me.

I want to be surrounded by a team of professionally trained men in black at gunpoint. I would level them all with a single, all-encompassing chi bomb.

I want to then run down an alley, where I would take on a posse of Shaolin monks-gone-bad, who jump me from behind a dumpster. The last one standing would beg me to teach him my arcane arts. I would refuse.

I want to sleep with one eye open and sense anyone approaching within a two-mile radius.

I want to sew up a wound on my shoulder using a rusty needle and thread in the privacy of my sparsely decorated studio apartment.

I want to drink milk from the carton and harbor a runaway.

I want to give birth while running for the train.

I want to taste blood in the back of my throat; feel the sting of scratches at my neck.

I want to face Death and make him beg for mercy.

…Or I could eat some dark chocolate and call it good.


In 2005 and 2006, I spent a year in federal prison for the alleged crime of “illicit sale of archaeological artifacts.” It’s not my case that I want to write about but the people I met while serving time. I was sentenced to a prison in northern Ohio on the Pennsylvania border near Youngstown, a one-time crime family capital of the state where a once strong steel industry gave way to corruption and gangs. It was, I suppose, a suitable location for a prison.

The unit where I was housed was over an INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) block that contained mostly Hispanic inmates but also black, Dominican and Mexican prisoners along with a smattering of Europeans. It was from this unit I made my best friends. There was Andrew from Poland and Thomas from Germany and there were, of course, the Russians. Most of the latter were from Uzbekistan.

As one who had a passion for reading and writing, I spent most of my free time doing so. It doesn’t take much to earn a reputation in lock-up and I was soon dubbed the “Professor.”
Damn Professor, you reading another book? Haven’t you read every book by now?

I was often the deciding vote on many a prison debate. Hey Professor, is the moon a planet or a star? And even (this was a serious question, I swear), do brown cows give chocolate milk?

A very U.E.S. (Upper East Side) Night for me was August 5, 2008.

I broke my third power cord for my apple laptop. I managed to post a note on facebook asking if anyone had an extra before draining the reserve battery power playing boggle on facebook (known as Scramble.) Frustrated, I cut in half two old power cords that had broken in different places and tried to join them while everything was plugged in. This created a fizzing sound and crackling sparks. With no internet I napped most of the evening.

I woke up at around 10pm feeling energized. Perhaps tonight I would finally check out karaoke at Dorrian’s Red Hand. For the last few months I had been receiving weekly invites on facebook to Tuesday night karaoke from a barely-known friendly acquaintance. Having previously only heard of Dorrian’s in connection with the Preppy Murder, I was surprised to see that it was still a popular bar attended by people with no ironic intentions whatsoever. I had maintained a strong morbid curiosity about the place from researching Upper East Side crimes and watching the Law and Order episode based on it.

Stripes

I happened to be home the last few Tuesdays but had been too lazy or intimidated to venture over there. Nights when I stay uptown are meant for cleaning my room and watching TV. If I were to go out I would go downtown where my friends are. But feeling kind of lame and shut in from my nap I was eager to get out of the house. This was the night.

Packing my phone into my purse I saw I had a message. My friend David had replied to my facebook post- not only did he have an extra power cord he was about to throw away but he was once again staying in the 70’s between Madison and Fifth. I called and arranged to pick up the cord in 30 minutes.

I walked down 5th Ave listening to Jawbreaker on my mp3 player. Mostly people walking their dogs, waiting limo drivers, one person sitting alone in the middle of the steps of the Met. I kind of wanted to go sit and talk to him or her – too far to tell. I saw a group of 7 or 8 kids sitting on the steps of some sort of embassy. I had a nostalgic feeling of being on vacation somewhere with my family and seeing the cool local kids hanging out, and wanting to meet them and be included. Or maybe I was just thinking of the Simpsons episode where that happens to Lisa.

There were three girls sitting on a bench on 5th Ave. talking and smoking. They probably all left their parents’ houses nearby to meet up and had to hide their smoking habits. I wanted to photograph the kids on the steps and the girls on the bench but I felt like I had lost my gumption for approaching strangers. I thought I should get a little drunk before the next time I walked around with a camera.

I had a sense that the people one sees on Fifth and Madison on week nights are unique to other areas. The characters are like me- people that decided to stay in, have a mellow night, but then decided to get some air, sit outside and think. No one is in a rush to meet people. Maybe a few are going to stay at someone’s house in the neighborhood and have a backpack with a change of clothes, or they’re getting off work from a fancy restaurant and headed home.

Got to David’s building- one of the few like mine where the doorman is also the elevator man. The door/elevator-man left me on a lobby bench to go up in what I assume was a manually operated elevator to retrieve my friend. The lobby had two mirrors facing each other creating an infinite reflection like in my lobby.

David handed over the power cord saying he’d come out for a cigarette but I easily roped him into walking over to Dorrian’s. What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night when you’re living off Madison Avenue?

Tuesday is big garbage night in the neighborhood. We passed one trash grouping containing an amateur bust.

Bust in Trash
And another pile with two vacuum cleaners placed in front of a large fan. David noted the juxtaposition of sucking and blowing.

Vaccuums and Fan in Trash

Further along the walk I spotted a license plate, definitely customized but I didn’t know what it meant. I explained to David that I have to photograph all vanity plates I see. I have since started a separate blog just about vanity plates to justify this obsession. David asked if anyone had ever harassed me for photographing their plates. I answered that it never happened since the owners were never standing there.

The car was parked tightly between two others right in front of the entrance to a building. A doorman stood outside talking to another guy. I squeezed between the cars and held my camera close to the plate. As I took the picture the not-doorman guy demanded “Why are you taking a picture of my license plate?” Nervous but laughing I answered, “I photograph license plates for fun, it’s just a personal project. What does it mean?” “It’s Albanian” he said. I had recently photographed a plate that said “Albania 1” so now it’s an official category in my collection.GJONAG1

ALBANIA1

Continuing our walk, we accidentally missed Dorrian’s because I had thought it was on the West side of 2nd avenue. Second Avenue in this area is also known as Restaurant Row. A waitress in Mustang Grill and Tequila Lounge sent us back South. Turned around, we spotted an anxious crowd standing outside an establishment, caddy corner from us. Is it actually hard to get into this place? We crossed over and stood outside, a little embarrassed. A young man wearing khakis and a navy blazer, gold buttons and all, lingered in conversation with some smokers. Four college-age guys probably home for the summer were trying to go in but were being kept at bay by the bouncer who casually informed us that we would have to wait a few minutes for people to leave.

Another barely-known friendly acquaintance/recent facebook friend arrived. He gave me a kiss hello and then ignoring our plight of waiting in line, he waltzed passed us and shook the bouncer’s hand as he walked inside. But the bouncer had been truthful – a few minutes later we were all allowed to enter.

Why is it so satisfying when our stereotypes are realized? We had to push through countless young men wearing pastel colored polo shirts, khakis, and white baseball caps and girls with blow-dried died blond hair and short dresses. We made our way to the bar and I saw that Peter, the friendly acquaintance who had invited me was actually tending bar. However, both bartenders would have been indistinguishable from the rest of the guests had they been standing on the other side of the bar. I suppose it makes sense- bartenders on the lower east side have tattoos and wear black but I guess I had assumed that uptown bartenders wore uniforms. The fact that Dorrian’s bartenders were dressed like the clientele and actually seemed to be peers of the clientele, which I knew was true at least in Peter’s case, gave me the impression that it was a friendly, tight-knit, fraternal establishment, outwardly and inwardly.

Once we got our drinks we made our way through the chaotic sea of pastel toward the corner which seemed to be generating the waves of excitement. Lost in the crowd it was easy to regain my friend who stuck out like a sore thumb for being the only man dressed in black. Reunited, he recounted overhearing the following: “You play lacrosse, bro?” “Naw, bro, water polo.”

Me and David

Karaoke was being performed (I cannot recall which song!) by several blond ladies, each with a microphone and occasionally helped by a karaoke MC off to the side. Several tables had been pushed against the back wall to make a clearing on the floor.

David and I watched, entertained by the spectacle and our own musings. He said it would be interesting to map out the carbon footprint of the combined hair drying spent that day on every girl at Dorrian’s. He also noted that he had never before seen people really dancing to karaoke. It was true- someone chose to sing Twist and Shout and the entire crowd danced along, getting down on the floor during the quiet part even more enthusiastically than the crowd at Beatrice where that song has oddly become a staple.

Dancing

Twist and Shout 2

But they danced to any and every song and occasionally members of the crowd, including myself later on in the night, would grab one of the extra tambourines and accompany the singers.

Songs I saw performed include “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Lovin’ is What I Got” by Sublime, a Bon Jovi ballad (I forget which) and I participated in a group rendition of “Whatta Man” by Salt n Pepa. After a few drinks I felt ready and signed up for “Reminiscing” which I only knew (and loved) because a friend had burned it for me off an Easy Listening compilation. I can’t remember if the Karaoke song book listed songs by title or if I just stumbled across it because I had never before heard of the group who sang it, The Little River Band, until I saw it in the book that night.

When I handed my selection over to the MC he did a double take, asked me if I was the one who chose “Reminiscing” and then gave me some sort of “Niiice” or thumbs up. That greatly reassured me since he could at least help out with the melody if I got lost or take over completely if I froze.
Me and the MC:

Me and the MC

There were a few repeat performers who seemed comfortably seasoned at the sport and who acted as good samaritans joining in on one of the many available microphones if a singer was lost. One such person was a large Italian-looking fellow with a friendly face and a pink short-sleeved polo shirt who helped me out on two songs without trying to steal the show. Another regular was a tiny young man in a suit who seemed to know everyone.

Several times toward the end of the night, songs were dedicated to the bartenders or the bartenders were each given microphones and sung between pouring drinks.

Bartender Singing

In the bathroom I heard one girl plead to her friend, “Just stay a little longer!” and another girl in a slight wine, “You know this isn’t my scene. I don’t belong here.”

The novelty of the place did not wear off and we ended up staying ‘till close. A few guys lingered about the sidelines, looking determined or desperate to accomplish one more thing before ending their night. I had just signed up for “Crazy Train” by Ozzy when the MC called out last song and another melody began. I went up to him and said “No time for ‘Crazy Train?’” He answered no. But when the supposed final song ended he called me up anyway and I performed “Crazy Train” with the large man in pink.
Crazy Train

Happily drunk and my curiosity filled yet even more piqued, I walked out with David onto Second Avenue to see scattered stragglers hailing cabs. We walked back to Madison Avenue which was by contrast completely deserted, and parted ways to walk the avenue in opposite directions. Who knew such fun could be had without leaving the neighborhood? I’m not sure what to think about these “preppies” who are called such even in magazine articles hung on the walls inside Dorrian’s. It’s not quite the same world as the one in which I grew up although I did spot one Dalton classmate whom I’ve never spoken to as far as I can remember. Further investigation is needed.

My wife Dawn and I took our dog Ginny to classes. We took her to playgroups. We gave her love and affection and discipline and water, plenty of water, because a dog was supposed to have fresh water at all times. And for all our efforts, our German shepherd was behaving worse every day, her latest victim the UPS guy, who now dropped off his packages at the foot of the driveway after the last encounter, which had involved teeth, pants, and unwanted ripping of fabric. Let’s just say it was a good thing he was wearing brown.


In his last novel, An Unfortunate Woman, Richard Brautigan wrote that no place is more surreal than the Midwest. He was right. To explore this issue further you should read Chuck Klosterman’s new book (and his first novel), Downtown Owl. In his amazing story you will meet a small band of inhabitants from a fictional North Dakota town called Owl, circa 1983. This crowd includes a transplanted teacher, a high school coach who impregnates students, students who make and don’t make the football team, alcoholic farmers, retired geezers, barflys and other sundry characters who not only make up the nuclei of our small towns but our larger metropoli.

If you grew up in a small town you have met these people, if you grew up in a large city you have probably still met them. Maybe one married your cousin or coached your nephews or nieces. Perhaps they drove into your brother’s car on a drunken Saturday night or gave you grandchildren. The characters in this town are Everymen and Klosterman paints them in their glaring humanity and vulnerability – he does not look down upon them at all. Klosterman is one of them. He grew up in North Dakota.

We sat together in the back of my car for an hour and I did not kiss her. We sat together on her couch, watching something or another on the TV and I didn’t kiss her. We lay together in her bed for hours, not kissing. It seems we can spend our lives together, swallow eternity and quake with love, and I haven’t kissed her. I cannot kiss her forever. There is agony in our kissing.

It gets worse

Perhaps some wine can help. The brutish concrete dividing our lips gains some minerals, that agonizing superstructure breaks down and her mouth splashes through all this decomposed boundary and there it is, I kiss her. But I do not kiss her. Maybe wine is a parlor trick for a kiss. Just hissing, adolescent monkeyshines and in the morning it was all greasy kid stuff. Wine is dangerous, as you never know when to fall in or out of love. Wine decides for you. That is why we drink it. Wine decides within and without you. That is why we drink it. I want to set a mortar charge in this fragile wall and blast out all the foundations, because wine is too slow. Then I will kiss her.

And then we kiss. Oh, I can just imagine it! She doesn’t taste like anything I have tasted before. She tastes like sprinkles from a thousand yellow butterflies. She tastes like drops of syrup on anArdennes pancake! My ribs collapse and my heart coils around her and our tears merge; an alloy prone to extinguish the flames of Hell! Devour me, sweet girl. Devour me soon as I devour you…when I was younger, when I was much smaller I thought like this. Always in love and always roaring with hope. There are so many girls, but I want this one! Ignore her, you brutes–you have never known love and you speak like ghouls and you tread like troglodytes. She can’t hear you, she mustn’t. She must hear only me and my voice and how it cracks and twists and burns and speaks in agonizing silence…I want to sleep.

I want to paw through her hair and slow her down. I want the diminuendo of processes. I want to slow her down and look at her in sleep. I will choose Endymion and she can choose Sleeping Beauty. And we will sleep. And then I will kiss her. I will kiss her gently and violently, because how can I not? I am angry with love! It’s all so perfectly horrible, as it was when I was younger.

Now, what–now that we kiss? Can I pull away and stop? Absolutely not. By my heart, by her swatting systoles I swear not Venus nor her sulfur rains can pull me from her lips. We are hitched eternally in a kiss. My breath is hers is mine and now there is no need for food, for drink, for watching the New Year’s Day parade. I have my moment and please, sweet girl, let this be yours and this is our time. There is no need for clocks, sundials, compasses, sextants, the winds, the sea, the air, the sun. There is only the dark spot, the void where she and I hide and nobody must see us. But we are not gone. One day we will come blazing out from the darkness, hoary, incontinent and withered and we will tell you that you will never know suffering. We have suffered for you. I must kiss her.

Screaming forth, through scales, through time signature, through hundreds of thousands of spilled seeds and our little laureates awash in infinite Egyptian thread counts. Now nothing but lead droplets, forsaken, gifted world-makers. And so ahead I’m charging on and hoping you don’t cry when you see my hearse and scratching at death’s thin membrane to rant and change the oil and the timing belt and the Volvo must be taken in every 10-12,000 miles. The children mustn’t chew gum. They look ignorant that way. Will they test well? Will they crush records on foot or in the water or with mighty spears and all I want is just to kiss you. First, just kiss you.

It goes on. . .

Then I see our name on bank accounts, sundry certificates and written indelibly on our faces. We. Our. Us. Ours. And when you run out of breath, engulf mine, smoky and diluted. And when it gets so heavy and you carry anvils up the street look at me. Look at me! And I’ll be your helium. I’ll be your vehicle, your imagination, I’ll be everything. You don’t believe me? Try me.

I have seen too many idle kisses. This one has value. This one is a live one…full of watts and ohms and puncturing that thin chrysalis of any damned barrier you can conjure.

This kiss can fight, this kiss won’t go down. This kiss has money on itself. Kiss me. And I’ll kiss you back. Heaven watch me, help me. Angels, pierce me with your slings and I’ll spit in your face. Under the cross, I’ll untie poor Iscariot from his fig and send him down the river. Ask me if I could care. I can’t care more for you and can’t care more for this. This blessed kiss. Forever and Forever and never. Let these charges move up their rungs and turn me into the harlequin with the mirror; Christ and the Samaritan and everything you’re afraid of. That’s how it is–I am the dream caused by the flight of a bee around a pomegranate a second after waking.

And the children, the laureates, the scoundrels, the scourges, the cherubs and the gentle Gooseberries. They all wait for their mother, their starburst of a mother, festooned with breasts of chocolate milk and a licorice umbilical. So, help me. Help me kiss her, all of you. Fight for me, unbuckle your swash and launch out. Attack for me. Attack like a mother for her boys on the morning of a war. If you see you, kiss you for me.

Page 1

The End

It’s Wednesday, August 20, 2008.

The Man burns in ten days.

In three hours one of your best friends will arrive from Australia. You have not seen him in two months.

In fourteen hours the person who your heart and mind and body desires most will arrive from Israel. You have not seen him in four months. He will be followed shortly thereafter by his father, who will arrive from North Carolina. You have never met him at all.

In three days you will all leave together, in convoy, for eight days in the searing, brutal and unpredictable Nevada desert, driving through the night to take part in an event so wild, so beautiful, so bizarre and so life-changing that your brain cannot yet begin to fathom the most basic aspects of it, let alone it’s myriad intricacies.

And you haven’t even packed.

Yes. You may vomit now.


Dano, your brother from another mother, arrives on Qantas flight whatever. Your excitement at seeing him is immense. Spastic jerking happy dances ensue at the airport. Once at home Dano carefully hands you the three precious containers of smuggled contraband you requested from the Motherland. You sniff the inky contents, dip a finger in the viscous tar, lick aforementioned sticky finger to ensure the purity of your prized black goo and, once assured, whisper with tremulous glee… “Ah. Vegemite. I love your work, son.”

Dano’s suitcase, when opened, looks like this….

It is an orgy of cuteness, a heaping of duty-free idiocy, a mess of koalas *.

* Made In China.

The fact that you have not yet packed or readied yourself at all is some bother to you. It is counter intuitive to your organized and somewhat busy nature. You like to be prepared. Fortunately, so does Dano, and thus you have both come up with The List.

Culled from websites and friends suggestions The List is a basic recipe for all of the ingredients you will need to keep you comfortable at Burning Man. It does not include foodstuffs (except for the most essential of all foodstuffs – something I assure you that you will crave if you don’t have it, even if you are vegan).

Without further ado… I give you….

ZOE AND DANO’S BURNING MAN LIST 2008

Essentials- DO NOT FORGET!!

BACON! (And none of that turkey bacon or vegetarian bacon, either. Bacon bacon only).
tent (unless you are a pussy and/or can afford an RV)
three-foot lengths of bent re-bar to hold tent in place (it’s a tad windy sometimes)
inflatable mattress and pump
sleeping bag/duvet
bike
camel pack (or a camel)
3 gallons of water per day
earplugs (no explanation necessary)
dust masks (again, no explanation necessary)
goggles and sunglasses x2
Ziploc bags (for everything, and I mean everything. If there were Ziploc bags with air holes you would want one for yourself, even though Ziploc bags with air holes would totally defeat their purpose.)
more bacon!!!

Basic stuff- TRY NOT TO FORGET!!!

umbrella/parasol
Leatherman/tools
plate/cutlery
toilet paper
blanket
pillow
towel
batteries
airtight plastic containers for clothes etc
garbage bags
lighter/matches
camera
extra camera bits
sun shower
coolers
WD40
bike repair kit
torch, personal and bike
head lamp
shade structure (it’s bright and hot out there)

Medical/Skin care-

sunscreen (STRONG)
unscented baby wipes (in lieu of showering. You will need plenty)
moisturizer
paw paw ointment
leave-in conditioner
foot cream
hand cream
first aid kit
electrolytes
mouthwash
toothpaste
toothbrush
sleeping pills
vitamins (5HTP)
painkillers
Dano’s anti-inflammatory pills
Something in case you get a rash on your botty

Clothing- (optional)

hats
boots
socks!!
beanie
gloves
scarves
coat
pants w lots of pockets
fluffy legwarmers
full body fish net- crotchless, of course
holsters
leather things
head-dresses
tutus
sulu/sarong
prom dress
tool belt
stilts
fluffy muff
frilly apron
lacy things
corset
anything that makes you feel beautiful, adventurous, free, comfortable, sexy, silly, regal, hard-core or just downright kinky.

The above portion of The List is fairly self-explanatory. The final section includes items that won’t necessarily aid in your comfort, but might certainly aid in your enjoyment.

Fun Stuff-

totems
flag
roo stamp and ink
kite
bike
stubbie holders (beer can coolers)
easel
whip
roll of paper and crayons
fake lawn

face paint
guitar
blinky things
journal
texta (sharpie) on a string
periscope
telescope
cow prodder
wig
pogo stick

And now you are ready. This is all you need and more. Feel free to take none of it and I’m sure you will be looked after. Remember that absolutely everything that you take in to Black Rock City must be taken out again. You can leave no trace. Remember that there is only one phone out there (not including the direct line to God) so chances are you will be out of contact with your Loved Ones for the duration of your stay. If this upsets you I suggest bringing your Loved Ones. If your Loved Ones are on the smallish side there is a camp called Kidsville where families congregate. Kidsville is Utopia for small humans.

Fall in love, find yourself, lose yourself, find yourself all over again just in time to lose your friends and make new ones. Confront your fears and insecurities. Give them away. Blow your mind and heart and soul wide open. Dance. Get dust in your eyes and nose and ears and bits. Discover Playa Boogers. Look after people, just as others look after you. Serve. Explore. Be stimulated. Be tested. Survive. Grow. This is Burningman. Before I experienced it I would roll my eyes at the people who claimed that it was indescribable. It IS indescribable. In the most wonderful way.

Perhaps you’ll know what I mean some day. I really hope you do.

Dear TNB Readers,

I took a walk and some photos for you the other day.

When I was 19 I took a job at Sears, Roebuck, and Co. The company was named after Richard Sears, Alvah Roebuck, and Bad Company (the English rock supergroup). If you’ve ever wondered who Roebuck was, I can tell you (according to Wikipedia) that the name came from Alvah Roebuck, who left the company in 1895 because of poor health. He returned as a spokesperson during the Great Depression and maintained that role until his death in 1948. Anyway, nothing against Mr. Roebuck, but I find that information to be exceptionally irrelevant to this blog, and yet I felt compelled to include it because of my fascination with Wikipedia. Who says porn is the best thing on the Internet?