Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the jack of hearts

the night that I met owen felt distinctly like autumn though it was the first blush of spring, as the leaves had inexplicably begun to fall in late february of 2004. I was packed like a pubescent sardine into a jetta full of girls stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on a friday on telegraph avenue in berkeley, listening to a liz phair mixtape, when an audible gasp of a mentionable decibel erupted from the front seat. taylor, resident loudmouthed redhead of the crew who supplied everyone else with a hoard of endless adderall pills as well as pretentious anecdotes, had spotted a prime specimen.

"oh... my god," she said, "ohmygod."

the god she was referring to was about 6'2", lanky and lean, with tousled dark brown locks protruding in a curly mop from underneath the brim of a trucker cap, wearing an amoeba records bag slung haphazardly across his shoulder. he walked with his moon colored eyes to the ground in a shuffling gait, and the brooding affect he embodied made my heart skip several beats. he had the essence of a young bob dylan incarnate, save for the stupid hipster hat.

taylor continued, "would you look at that."

rose answered without skipping a beat, shifting the gears of the car while it idled, "homo."

"no way," I said, "he can't be..."

"totally gay." rose said.

taylor protested, "but why! he looks like he could be into chicks."

"it would be such a waste." I observed wistfully, noticing the curvature of his perfect behind in tight blue jeans.

"he's too pretty, and he knows it." rose said, and as if on cue, the boy turned his head to meet our lascivious stares. it was true.

"fuck." taylor muttered, as we all awkwardly turned our heads to look ahead to abruptly curtail our collective gawking. I couldn't resist to immediately look back, which he graciously met with a lopsided smile, and I turned beet red right as the light turned green.

"flamer." affirmed rose. and with that, we were off on our adventure seeking. we arrived at le chateau co-op shortly after, which was much more of a shanty motel than a dormitory, and was rumored to house the most elaborate meth lab in the greater bay area in its basement. every corridor was dark and lined with nubbly, cheap nylon carpet that is commonly found in dentists offices or mobile homes and littered with cigarette butts and empty beer cans. each sheetrock wall was covered from floor to ceiling in profane graffiti, obscure poetry, or splatters of paint. there was a vague yet omnipresent tincture of pee, and one of the squatters had brought home a runt pig named bella that ran amok, squealing and snorting amidst the constant melee.

the layout of this artfuck bomb shelter was comprised of 5 floors and resembled what might have been an ideal labyrinth for a mental institution if it hadn't been taken over by hippie stoner college students. the rooftop displayed a twinkling view of san francisco and the east bay, and at any given hour was giving airy respite to a tortured musician, be it a bongo soloist or an indie folk prodigy. the pool in the backyard was oft filled with random, floating pieces of furniture and gorgeous naked people who effortlessly embodied carefree, irreverent youth. everything about the co-ops was weird, gross, surreal, and made me feel drunk on puerility and freedom. it was a representation of what I thought might have happened if the babysitter gave up and left after the parents never returned home. these kids were wild and well versed in the alchemy of chaos and hedonism, but also maintained 4.0s. where had they been all my life? I wondered to myself, as I took another gravity bong hit.

le chateau

velkjo, me, mysterious hand on abe, abe

hanging out at the co-ops was my most "hands on" social experiment. each night there had the potential to end in a gory, savage lord of the flies showdown with some random RA's head on a stick carried by a pack of sociology majors donning togas. I learned how to shotgun beer, dumpster dive for produce, and accurately quote emmanuel kant. I did whipits in a bunk bed with a drug dealer named fliz who wore ski goggles and parachute pants and I meticulously managed a list of people who participated in my "makeout revolution" with a key in the margin to decode what kind of kisser they were and who I did "more" with. I got all of the animal house experience without any of the college, and it was some kind of incredible. on one bizarrely autumnal february night in the beginning of my epic berkeley ballad, I met owen, and his best friend rob.

cloyne was twice the size of chateau, home to over 200 cal students and the odd squatter, which was essentially what I became for a period of about 6 months. it wasn't quite as ghetto as chateau, and had a much more congenially aesthetic layout in addition to an outdoor hot tub that was really quite pleasant once you were drunk or high enough not to care what you might be swimming in. (real talk.) it was a sophisticated sort of squalor that made me feel grown up and edgy, existing in a glamorous indigence that I'd only dreamt of in my childhood bedroom as a sickly teenager.

rose had caught wind of a princess bride party across town at cloyne that promised free two buck chuck and choco tacos while supplies lasted, and her, taylor, myself, and several other usual suspects all piled on top of each other in the tiny car to jettison ourselves between co-ops. immediately upon walking in the front door, I peered into the darkened room where the movie was projected on the wall and the scene where wesley is rolling down the hill in the countryside yelling "aaaasss yoooou wiiiiiiiiiishhhhh" played out, and I saw a familiar face flickering in the light of the movie reel. it was the telegraph heartthrob from hours before... still wearing that abominable hat. I gasped and dug my pink glittery talons into rose's skinny thigh and hissed, "trucker cap. TRUCKER CAP! he can't be gay! do gay guys like the princess bride?" I thought better of it. "don't answer that."

rose observed the miracle that had occurred... we had manifested a face to face meeting with the mysterious street walking indie god of berkeley. we watched the rest of the movie and I bolstered my confidence with a choco taco, a drink, and a line of adderall, and as the credits rolled, the crowd dispersed and re-convened in the common area by the courtyard. someone had recently experienced an epic paper mache disaster, because in the middle of the floor there was a ruptured bag of plaster of paris that shot crusty white streams of powder ten feet in each direction, giving the ambience a coke-party-gone-awry feel. across from rose and I, on a different couch that was a veritable petri dish for scabies and other unsavory, itchy things, sat the boy in the trucker cap, and his friend who resembled a young robert smith with an unfortunate bleach job north of his ears. they were nursing PBRs and engaged in a conversation I desperately wanted to interrupt, but was at a loss for how to go about it. there was a moment where they both stopped talking and looked up at me at the very same time, so I did the only thing I could think of, in my split second of coquettish boldness and terror that I'd end up ridiculed. I looked at the object of my affection in the questionable hat, and stuck up my pointer finger to beckon him over to me. rose and I both stopped breathing, as we waited for a response. this playful mating dance was becoming more stressful than disarming an atom bomb.

the two boys continued to stare at me, now both wearing a bemused smirk, and then they looked at each other. trucker cap looked back first, and pointed to himself mouthing the word, "me?", and I finally exhaled as I nodded affirmatively. he shrugged to his friend, who was getting up to wander elsewhere, and rose took her leave back into the fray of the party.

now as he had come over to my side, I could see that he was blushing, and I felt sanguinely confident.

"hi, I'm owen." he said, sitting down next to me.

"christina. nice to meet you."

"that was impressive, what you just did right there. you're pretty ballsy, aren't you?" he asked, leaning back a little as if sizing me up.

"eh." I shrugged. "shy people are creepy. I had to meet you after serendipity set us up twice in one night."

"oh, that was you! in the car full of girls..."

"that were eyeballing you as if you were a fine christmas ham, yes. sorry about that." I laughed nervously.

"no, it made my night. until now."

"I'd have thought the princess bride to be a high point."

"but, you can see Rodents of Unusual Size on any given night here at cloyne."

"inconceivable!" I shrieked, and as we leaned back into the cushions, heard something in the frame crack underneath us making the couch sag in the middle, sliding our hips together. I fought the urge to faint.

"hey," he adjusted himself a little so as not to be sitting directly on me, "you remind me of a much more attractive helen hunt."

I stared at him and then furrowed my brow. he was lucky that his eyes were huge and grey blue enough to sail dreamboats.

"like, way more attractive." he continued.

"wrong answer." I pat his knee. he got up, grabbed my hand and helped me out of the busted la-z-boy, and we walked out into the moonlit garden. I was delirious from the endorphin rush, and I could hardly believe what was happening was real. suddenly, across the courtyard there was a great crash of broken glass and an anguished scream, and one of the palm trees shook and dropped cracked branches onto the pavement. owen dropped my hand and muttered, "oh, jesus, rob."

I looked up into the peculiarly animated tree and a hand shot out of the palm fronds clutching a half full bottle of charles shaw, followed by that brassy blonde afro that I recognized from my battle flirting just earlier.

"I'm okay!" he yelled, though no one had asked. "... but, I may have broken my ankle."

a herd of girls in dresses made from black glad bags tittered as they walked by, the last of which was pirouetting and singing "strawberry fields forever".

"that's my best friend." said owen, gesturing to the palm tree.

"well," I sighed, "this doesn't seem like the sort of place where anyone can survive without someone to help them undermine the spectacle."

to be continued...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

play it again, sam

when I was 18, I had my first love triangle in berkeley, california at a co-op called the cloyne court hotel. this is a piece of the puzzle from someone else's point of view.

"... and so it was that five years after our first encounter, i was best friends with someone who could be described as being the bay area's most infamous smooth drunk talking indie god. and so it was that I came to sit on a couch on a typical drunken cloyne night with my best friend. had I been anyone else, I wouldn't have been sitting on the couch when you gave the "come-hither finger". had I not lived in cloyne, owen would most likely have been drunk at anywhere-but-cloyne on that night. but, of course we were there. and i have to admit that it is a little more than odd knowing that we both saw you at the same time. with that, if pressed to relate our first introduction to christina, our stories would no doubt sound similar. there we were. talking about music, booze, and women. I don't actually know if that's what we were discussing, but then, knowing us, that's exactly what we were talking about.

when suddenly, this blonde creature from across the room; sitting on her own couch with her own friend in her own through the looking glass version of mine and owen's little world, pleasantly shattered our goings-on by coolly rolling her finger to beckon the attention of two boys that were so lost in their perfectly normal tipsy banter that someone yelling "fire" couldn't have had more of an effect. there was no crazy man yelling "fire", though. that would've been too easy, too expected, and all together too dull to catch them off guard. but a woman. that's an entirely different situation, isn't it? both owen and I were looking up at someone whose motionings were, up until then, wholly unheard of. she was like a fiery draught filled to the brim of its glass with equal parts self-confidence and self-mockery. holding our drinks, we looked on, trying to understand the method behind what must obviously be madness; for we had only seen such cartoonish gestures in the movies or on television. holding our drinks, we both wonder who it is she's looking and motioning at. "is it me, rob?" "is it me, owen?" "is it both of us? or is it some drunk retard behind us with an aerosmith t-shirt on?" it's a brief wondering. so brief that only owen and I will ever know it happened. because owen and I are friends, you understand. and with such a friendship comes a mutual understanding of some kind of perfect equality that exists beyond the outside perceptions of those around us. the moment for confusion quickly evaporates like cigarette smoke on a windy day as the precedence of our past experiences re-colors our questions. of course we both know who she is drawing her gaze upon. of course we boths know it's owen, because tall blonde creatures with legs that never learned how to stop, and who live mostly on opposite sides of the room, are never the kind to single rob seretti out of a crowded environment. it is a dance that me and owen know all too well as I quickly take my leave and disappear to a place I don't remember.

it is a random enough moment. it is an odd way to have been introduced to you and it is an odd thing that our friendship (mine and yours) has lasted as long as it has. like my friendship with owen, this is one of those things that I do not wish to ever question or fully understand. I am sure that there is, between us, an entire bucket of seething worms that is better left alone. heaven forbid that those seething worms get loose of their bucket because no more good or ill than there already is could come of their release. under more common circumstances, I would relish the idea of bringing the unseen, unthought of, and unanalyzed to glorious light, but, this is not a common circumstance. uncommon individuals, such as ourselves, rarely create common situations. and the only real thing staying my foot from tipping over the bucket of worms is that I know that if I did, I wouldn't get very far in doing so because you'd be kicking the opposite side of it at exactly the same time. unlike most of the people I've met, I can't tell you about the unseen and unthought of and unanalyzed. there is not much I can tell you about the curious nature of our friendship that you don't already know and think about.

I assume that I will see you much earlier than I expected to, yet much later that I had hoped to.



Monday, February 15, 2010

truly madly deeply

following is a short story I started writing tonight during a fit of insomnia... partially inspired from autobiographical tidbits, partially wishful thinking, and mostly because I bonded with ian earlier over pasta through a mutual love of "premo" music. title taken from the magnificent band, Savage Garden. hope this doesn't suuu-uuuuck!

TMD on youtube

lucy watched the fat, cartoonish snowflakes flittering past the window with a detached fascination as they made their descent to continuously coat all of brooklyn in a blanket of freezing white. it'd been weeks since she'd not worn long underwear, and if pressed for a guess, a month since she'd eked out a smile that wasn't vaguely pained. real winter has a way of complicating things beyond the reaches of what born and bred californians can grasp, especially those who are prone to chemical imbalances. 3500 miles away, in the middle of february, her mother was opening the windows of her home to combat the greenhouse effect, and dolores park was no doubt bustling with countless joyous champagne picnics underneath the unapologetically majestic palm trees. felix, on the other hand, was raised just a short LIRR ride away in ronkonkoma, a town that was delightfully kitschy in that fashions were a decade behind, the television sets were all ludicrously huge, and the accents were thick enough to make fran drescher sound like a recent alum from charm school. this was not his first hypothermic new york rodeo. he seemed genuinely unaffected and completely free of seasonal affective disorder's relentless and brutal clutches, which lucy couldn't bear to admit to anyone, much less herself, that she found heartening but equally irritating. felix bustled in the kitchen as he unwrapped a rump roast from emily's pork store and flung open the cabinet that contained the spice rack and snatched a vial with zeal that would better befit a mad scientist as he twisted off the cap and began sprinkling the meat. then he brought his hand down to spank it, and then gleefully started singing "I am cumin and I need to be ruuu-uubbed..." to the tune of the smiths as he caressed it on the counter.

lucy cocked an eyebrow and walked over to his side with her hand on her hip and pressed her nose to his neck as if on autopilot for a nuzzle. he smelled comforting and manly, sort of like waffles with syrup made from old spice aftershave.

"you know, the most charming part of watching you cook, is knowing that you'd be lampooning morrissey to a rump roast even if no one were around."

he went on, "just like everybody else dooooes...", and reached to turn on the broiler as he went for the whistle solo.

"I'm going to grab a coffee at cho's and some kibble for chewbacca. you want anything?" she asked. chewbacca meowed expectantly while flicking his tail by the empty bowl, though his fat roll extended well past his hindquarters when sitting in such a manner.

"no, thank you, darlin'. dinner's on in forty-five. don't be late!" he said, puckering his lips out sideways to steal a smooch. lucy obliged. then she suited up in her parka and marveled to herself how perfect he was, and how much she was undoubtedly going to sabotage it somehow.

domesticity was not something she thought she would soon attempt again after the both ill-conceived and ill-fated first venture into cohabitation on the opposite coast. at 22, she'd broken a cardinal rule that must be adhered to if one desires a functional and fulfilling life, and started dating one of her roommates that lived upstairs at a beautiful and drafty pepto bismol pink victorian on fell street in san francisco. as per usual, the beginning was enchanting and fit for a sitcom, as hormones came to a head one week when the other roommates were out of town for the holidays, and they were the only ones home because he was a jew, and she was a grinch. the start of it was full of heady, warm, fuzzy feelings, slumber parties, cooking eggs in robes, and hand holding in crosswalks. it progressed to birth control, peeing with the door open, sharing a cell phone plan, and renting zipcars to go to costco where he would buy her a bag of 500 low fat string cheeses because he knew exactly what she liked and needed. then, on valentine's day, she brought home an expensive bottle of sake from work at the sushi restaurant and found him watching dirty jobs on the discovery channel in his boxer briefs, which he defiantly refused to turn off. then after she'd drunk the bottle of sake to herself while watching a program graphically depict artificial bovine insemination, his ex-girlfriend showed up at midnight, drunk off of her skinny hindquarters, screaming into the mail slot of their front door that he had gotten her pregnant. that romantic holiday was the beginning of the end, and the end was mostly comprised of screaming matches, slaughtered trust, and panic attacks, and the relationship's death rattle lasted for a year. she felt personally attacked every time she came across bulk dairy products of all kinds or any woody allen movies.

this new union was unexpected and entirely uncomplicated, which likely would have made lucy nervous if she hadn't been gripped by the deliriously thrilling throes of new york's indian summer. she met felix at the coffee shop one utopian afternoon in late august, on a perfectly warm day with light humidity that made her short flaxen hair settle into soft ringlets that framed her heart shaped face. she wore a threadbare vintage jackson 5 baseball shirt she'd permanently borrowed from her brother with a cheetah print bra underneath, and was covered in bruises from kickball matches in mccarren and the general revelry that endless sunshine inspires. when she arrived at the coffee shop, amanda was playing her favorite neutral milk hotel album, kyle handed her a pink daisy on his way out while tipping his fedora winsomely, and catherine was opening a bag of salt and vinegar kettle chips by the espresso machine. lucy looked towards the front door to check for a publisher's clearing house crew with a camera to come crashing through, but instead, she saw an unfamiliar and intriguing young gentleman. he was deeply engrossed in a doodling session with a blue needle point marker on a cocktail napkin, and as though on cue when she noticed him, reached up to nudge his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his middle finger and then immediately nibbled the end of his thumb as he leaned back and inspected his handiwork as if entertaining a few last finishing touches. amanda noticed lucy's fixed gaze and leaned over the counter to mutter, "get it, girl." and she was halfway across the room while she replied, "watch me."

she sidled up to his table and put her hand on the empty chair across from him, gesturing to with the other to point to the drawing.

"der fuchs." she said.

"excuse me?" he replied, meeting her gaze inquisitively.

"'the fox', in german. he's cute. does he have a name?"


"he needs one."

"no way."

"you're rather contradictory, aren't you?"

"get out of town." he jutted his chin out, which was dappled with a blonde 5 o'clock shadow.

lucy sat down. "then I'll help myself to the seat rather than risk an inquiry. hope you don't mind." she melted into the chair while sipping on the dregs of her iced coffee until the straw started to slurp and the sweat from the cup dribbled onto her knuckles. he signed the bottom of the napkin and slid it over to her.

"felix, huh?" lucy leaned forward and batted her lashes. "charmed, I'm sure. where are you from?"

"long island."

"I didn't think they had foxes there." she said, and felix overturned another napkin to reveal another picture of a whale with 17 eyeballs.

"you thought wrong!" he smiled, revealing a row of teeth so gleaming white that they resembled a row of porcelain chiclets, with a tiny chip in one of his two front teeth. "you should see our mutant sea mammals."

later that night when they were falling asleep in her bed for the first time together, he started singing savage garden lyrics into her ear and she playfully elbowed him while telling him to shut up.

he crooned, "... I wanna lay like this forever, until the sky falls down on meee."

"lies!" lucy cried.

"nuh uh." he insisted.

"what if you get hungry?"

"order pizza."

"what if you have to pee?"

"colostomy bag."

"I guess since you've thought of everything, I'll defer to your questionable judgement."

felix squeezed her tighter and sighed, "cuddling with you is like bathing in a jacuzzi tub of warm tapioca pudding.", and all of the sudden it was glaringly clear that she'd finally met someone that she could eat a few pounds of cheese with. it was just an added bonus that he loved her cat.