A Tragicomical, Unsophisticated Blog about the Weird, the Absurd, and the Banal

Saturday, May 26, 2012


In this heat, the trash can't sit. At my office this basic fact has become a sacred duty.

My coworkers and I find Evidence of vermin every morning. Droppings. Dead cockroaches. Things. Combating the fruit flies is a full-time job. At one point, a former colleague threatened anyone who dared leave food in the office overnight with the punishment of being tied up Gulliver-style, covered with cheese, and left until morning. The trash must be taken out. And that full-time job goes to me.

When I worked at the Java House in Iowa City I never minded taking out the trash. It was a duty universally despised by my coworkers, but for some reason I found it zen. Remove the bag, march through the back past the studyers, the coffee junkies, the people Ignoring you walking by with a gigantic bag of coffee grinds and filters, depositing said bag in a dumpster and, magically, the place is cleaner. That's why, before I leave work every day at the office, I don't mind taking out the trash.

Actually, I do this Everywhere.

At my house, I am usually the one carrying the trash can to the curb every Tuesday and Friday morning. Whenever there's a construction project that I am compelled to attend because of work, I'm always glad to clean up the site, tie up the garbage bags, and throw things into the giant green bins for Disposal.

Often, at parties, I find myself Carrying out bags of red cups, beer boxes, half-eaten slices of pizza, dirty plastic plates and silverware, scribbled notes, cans, bottles, wrappers, moldy food, broken electronics, and the debris of late furniture. It's a compulsion.

And I'm not Opposed to sorting out the Refuse either. My Green and German friends have Educated me. Plastics, glass, paper, and bio-degradables all belong to separate containers to be taken Other Places, Somewhere Else.

It's easy. A zen gesture. Probably something that, under proper scrutiny, Reveals Something about my personality, upbringing, and identity. I am, however, too lazy to make metaphors or go too deeply into self-introspection today. So, take from this what you will. In fact, take it out. Forget about it.


My friend, Paul "Canada" Nemeth, the man who saved my life once in high school, is now a poet. And he knows it, apparently. Check out his Facebook page.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


"Have you ever really thought about the awesome implications of ten dollars?" asked G. He stared at a tremendous, fire-engine red container of Folgers coffee.

"Right now I'm thinking about eating," I said. There was a pre-made salad in my hands. Sort of a guilty pleasure since pre-made food isn't really in the Spirit of food stamps.

"A guy in the street a few days ago asked me for a dollar. He used the bill to snort something in front of me. Imagine what ten dollars would do? I wonder if that does affect the quality of the experience? G I need to borrow your money - this needs to be tested." M said. M held a sandwich and a six pack of Tin Roof.

"How much do you think this costs with tax?" G asked, inspecting the Folgers.

"Ten dollars should cover it," M said.

"And this will go for a few weeks," G said, pondering. "My last ten dollars. It seems like a valuable investment. Without coffee, I can't function. I wonder how long I can go without food."

"It's a lousy experiment," I said, "I can buy you food. I've got food stamps."

"We get paid tomorrow," M pointed out. "Four hundred and ninety-five dollars."

"Three-fifty goes to rent immediately," G said. "But I can still afford food with a hundred and ninety-five."

"But then you have to take into account fifty dollars week for entertainment and drinks," M countered. "And then there's miscellaneous expenses, like flat tires, bribes, gas, insurance, taxes, medicine, more coffee. So, realistically, you have fifteen for food. Maybe fifteen fifty."

We walk to the counter. "I'm buying you sushi," I told G. I actually couldn't afford it since I only had seventeen dollars left on my account and I was in the middle of reapplying for further funds.

"Want me to throw in for the beer?" I asked M.

"Who said you're getting any?" M replied. "Nah. If you want to."

I gave M two dollars, bringing his contribution down to ten. We paid and went outside. We were in the French Quarter Rouses at the corner of Royal and St. Peter. Outside it was a cool early Spring evening just getting dark. Doreen Ketchens was giving a performance.

"Wouldn't it be great to be musician?" G asked as we walked to the levee. "They are the happiest people in this town. Who's seen a starving, tortured artist since they came down here?"

"Beer tax," M mutters to himself. "Did you know that between the three of us we make one very poor salary?"

"I wonder how much they make?" G said. He glanced over his shoulder at Doreen, considering. "Do you think they earn more than we do?"

"Definitely," I said. "Fun fact -- it takes Mitt Romney four and a half hours to earn our annual income."

We climbed up the levee and sat on the rocks below the concrete walkway. It's impossible to see water from anywhere in New Orleans without climbing -- hence the joke that the river is the highest point in the city. M distributed the beer and we ate our food.

"How far are we from your apartment?" G asked M.

"About twenty minutes from here," M says.

G held up the can of coffee contemplatively. "Do you have access to water?" he asked.

"That's a pretty damning question in this city," M said. "Thems fightin' words."

"Well, if you have water then we could make coffee," G said, undaunted.

"Amazing!" M said. "We could make coffee."

G elaborated. "And then we would be in the Bywater, where we would have access to Things. The coffee would get us through the evening."

"Well maybe," I said. "You know, I've found that Nodoz are more cost effective."


Holy shit, I've kept this blog running for a year solid. I'm permitting myself that this is a triumph.

Friday, May 11, 2012

On the run and Announcements

To Alex Epstein,

When asked at his reading, "What is the one question you always wanted people to ask you?" the very very short story writer laughs and reads another story. That evening, from his silent hotel room, he calls home. His cousin asks, "What's it like sleeping without the sound of interstate?"


Allergies and time are killing me.

That said, a quick announcement: my short story, "The Law of Gravity," will be published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine issue 56. Don't know yet when it will be published, but will keep you posted.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

New Orleans Misc.

A friend, CO, was at a bar not far from my house. It was a Wednesday afternoon, hot, muggy, strange and there was nothing better to do. He sat down and an older man sitting next to him asked CO where he was from. New Jersey, said CO.

"What brings you down here, baby?" said the man.

"AmeriCorps," said CO. "I  rebuild houses."

"You like the city?"

"I love it here," CO said, holding up his High Life and taking a sip.

The man's tone went dark. "Get out now."

CO was taken aback. "What?"

"Get out now," the man said. "Because if you don't, you'll never leave. Trust me. You'll fall in love and never get out."


Last week a fifteen year old black girl was shot to death in the Desire neighborhood. A week earlier her boyfriend was shot and killed in more or less the same area. The Times Picayune says that the best the police can do is say it's about turf warfare or schoolyard brawling.


"There are so many ways to make a left turn in this town," AC says. We're trying to navigate through the streets of the Marigny and we are not being successful. AC instructs to make another right turn. No one has any idea where we are, but this does not seem to bother AC.

"You can make three right turns. You can overshoot and make a u-turn. You pull down a driveway, back up, and go straight down the way you wanted to..."

"Yeah," said AY, "you can basically do anything but make a left turn."

"But it forces you to be creative."


Six years after Katrina, there are still several thousand people who haven't been able to rebuild their houses.

The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center said the number was around 10,000 in 2010 and since then people have played with the statistics (five thousand, eight thousand, and so on) because no one really knows.

There are so many mysteries about this place. It might be useful for the ambiance, but it's hell for a grant writer.


L and my house sits near the end of a one-way street in the Fairgrounds. There is no direct way to get there by car except by way of an elaborate dance through the other one-way streets surrounding it like a labyrinth. There is, however, an intersection of two main streets which our road runs into, but you cannot enter the street from this point.

AC was driving with us home one day. L stared down the entrance to our street. "Why can't I just drive down that way? It would be so much faster. Why can't you enter there?"

AC shrugged and said, "Do whatever you want."

"Really?" L asked, looking over at him.

AC nodded. "Really."

So L drove down the street directly to our house. No one tried to stop us.

New Orleans made more sense to me suddenly.