Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hometown Errands

The impeccable purgatory that is the Silicon Valley. In this current incarnation: hairy eyeballs, mermaid repellant, cyberpunk insects, free bourgeois s'mores, my first taste of mulled wine. Monologuing through miles of walking through San Francisco twilight along the shore of a twinkling underpass. The usual running-into-people-I-haven't-seen-in-five-or-six-years-en-route-to-the-dentist.

Forgive me, I may be riddled with nostalgia. This region has that effect on me. In particular, I can never hang around the South Bay too long for fear of getting cavities in my sentiment.

Or something: words.

Insomnia, again. Currently on my buddy's couch in Oakland with work tomorrow morning as, thankfully, I've scored a few zero-notice gigs practicing massage, modeling, editing, and so on.

The last time I visited this apartment I left it with a jar of coffee beans I'd roasted* myself after he'd taught me how, a volume of Hunter S. Thompson's letters [which I've just recently begun reading], a decorative stuffed dog for my sister, and a Colombian machete [which has chaperoned me during some of my more questionable excursions]. I've come away from other visits here with green tasseled-and-sequined nipple pasties I was gifted at a vendor booth when I went to see my first burlesque show, Hello Kitty temporary tattoos, and handfuls out of my Dominican cigar collection [a gift sent from Alaska by a one-day acquaintance], which he's been keeping safe for me for almost a year now. I'm down to my last eight-to-ten of them.

People are really good to me, a lot of the time, and I can't help but think there's not much reason for it. Not that I'm particularly undeserving, but I'm not particularly deserving, either.

It's gotten me thinking about the value of maintaining friendships. When you live in a particular town, when you've got a job or are otherwise part of some regular assembly of people, friends are a no-brainer. But running around plan-free, often leaving town as soon as anyone knows I've shown up, with diverse and inconsistent gets wonky, trying to figure out how other people fit in, or how they should fit in.

This year I've been so project-oriented, and alternately solitary and lovebird-ified. For months I basically forgot I had friends to begin with, and it was making me start to feel like a hermit/sociopath/ghost/asshole/etc.

So, I've been doling myself out for the standard social engagements, like introducing Alex to my high school paramour and his current ladymajigg over donuts at 3:00 a.m., running up and down the concrete slabs of a muddy reservoir with people I've known since middle school but only recently recognized as kindred spirits, that kind of thing.

Oh, and showing old friends and short-term strangers around an underground suburban gem I discovered with a couple of my homies-of-the-era when we were twelve.

In high school, whenever I was interested in a boy but didn't know him too well, I'd try to bring him exploring through these tunnels with me, as a test. If they were weenies about walking a quarter mile in the dark through a couple inches of water, I moved on. By definition, all high school girls have to be fickle and, in some small and often superficial way, unyielding. No?

A. Actual appearance of the end of the tunnel...
B. ...and the same photo, with flash
Anyway. Over the years [at least since I figured out the truth about Santa Claus**], I've gotten to know December as that pesky month that besieges me from one side with drifting malaise and from the other with an irrational survival anxiety. Fortunately, I'm often [though not always] more articulate when I have to fight for my peace of mind--and often more compelled to make sense of things by writing, for "just as some people turn to religion to find meaning, the writer turns to his craft and tries to impose meaning, or to lift the meaning out of chaos and put it in order", or so wrote the preeminent Hunter S.

Why did I just write this? Thought Catalog just published this rambley doodad of mine, but why did I write that? Why do I write anything? Maybe if I write for long enough, I'll figure it out.

*when I originally posted this I'd written "ground", because my brain doesn't work anymore.
**that he's a Communist! Or have your parents not told you yet?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Case Study of Cough Syrup's Effects on the Mind

Three weeks of vague bronchial sickery have gotten me on a bit of an existential bender...albeit not an intellectual one, since being sick makes me sluggish in the head. On the plus side, I guess that sluggishness helps put a ceiling on how much I can overphilosophize myself into a catatonic meatsack, which--when one is confined to a bed--is ultimately a blessing.

Case in point: last week I watched all three seasons of Game of Thrones in under forty-eight hours.

Nonetheless, I've been reading and writing a good deal. I finally pulled myself together enough to submit some new material, and my admittedly gimmickally-titled article 6 Ways to Transcend Your Conditioning has just been published on Collective Evolution. Feeling pretty groovy gravy on that front. 8]

I've gone to sleep no earlier than 4:00am in weeks. It's getting ridiculous. I tried the pull-a-one-nighter-to-reboot-your-sleep-schedule trick [ahem, three seasons in forty-eight hours], which was decidedly fruitless.

And here I am again.

Regarding cough syrup, I am imprudent in metering dosage, and won't touch anything containing active ingredients other than dextromethorphan, pseudoephedrine, or guaifenesin, depending. Fuck diphenhydramine, for instance. I mention this preference only in reference to the title of this post.

Uh, in other news.

Yesterday night I stayed up until 6:00am talking about superficial privilege, pyrotechnics, and bitcoin with one of my best friends in the world. We grew up together, are simultaneously nothing alike and everything alike, and I predict he'll become egregiously wealthy while I'm off climbing the rooftops of some beach town barefoot in pajamas.

Today I ate fresh handmade noodles and went to a choral concert.

Tomorrow I'll figure out when I'm flying to Thailand, and cram in some anatomy and Latin [a formerly useless interest of mine that's been reignited, thanks to today's concert] as a way to further preclude catching up with some other friends I've been meaning to see [ah, how sociable December makes me].

And now? I'm going to harass a certain inamorato of mine who's exiled himself to Ableton-land because he can't sleep, either.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

For Now, an Uninspired Post on My Lack of Inspiration [But with Better Things to Come]

November 29th, 2013
Grass Valley, CA

The problem with trying to write about my life [besides a vague feeling that I’m masturbating in public] is that it’s not only arranged along an axis of time, but also linked through recurring circumstance, mindset, etc. The events of my life don’t come in self-evident packages, and I’ve attempted to slice my life into “episodes” any number of times so as to be able to write about Something without it being torn apart in the vacuum of memory by every possible association I could draw—ultimately these “episodes” are as arbitrary as political borders.
I could chronologically work my way through a particular trip, or else catalog the experiences I’ve had with a prominent person, or in a particular place. Deliberating over how I should organize my writing has caused me to backlog the fuck out of everything, obsessively rearranging half-formed snippets of writing like Tangrams, trying to figure out how to present them together as composites, instead of just working to finish them. All of this has finally led me to one infuriating deliverance of a conclusion: Fuck it, this is just self-righteous procrastination.
So…I guess all that’s left is to write. Otherwise the unfinished .docx files will just keep piling up, as they have for years.


Quickly approaching is the last night I expect to spend in Gold Country for a while [which, of course, could just as easily mean a few months as it could the rest of my life].
Of course, with no one around except Alex, two dogs, and a declining number of chickens, I’ve been naked for the greater part of a week, except for a pair of moccasin boots a girl had forgotten in my car earlier that year, and a fleece blanket I’ve wrapped myself in in accordance with the setting sun.
Outside, a large pond [occasionally patronized by a river otter, supposedly], a hot tub [frequently patronized by Alex and myself, beer and cigarettes in tow], the best tree swing I’ve ever met, a massage-and-yoga-retreat-space-to-be, disc golf targets, an RV and a shed or two, ample space. 
The chicken issue has been bothering me—I’ve been stationed here with a very small set of responsibilities: to make sure the dog food doesn’t run out, and to make sure the chickens are let out of their run each morning and locked up again by nightfall.
First the number dwindled mysteriously from six to five without my seeing or hearing a thing, and last night when I went to close up the run I came across just one quiet, wary bird, though I’d seen the other four puttering around only a couple hours ago. I’ve since invested a lot of anxiety into this.
Alex has been trying to reassure me, “This shit just happens. Free range chickens get eaten—sometimes a cat shows up. It’s not your fault—you’ve been here, doing everything you’ve been asked to do, everything they’d be doing if they weren’t on vacation. There’s no way to keep an eye on this entire property all day—it’s huge.”
Mostly my anxiety’s been in a lack of inspiration. We’ve been sitting around, watching movies and TV, eating, drinking, a bit of reading. Not the writing—or, failing that, the debauchery—I felt would do my stay here justice.


Fourteen months ago marked my arrival in Nevada City for the first time.
Five months before that, my friend Christina had given me my first Thai massage in exchange for my teaching her to ski. She mentioned off-hand that she thought I’d be good at massage and might try pursuing it myself, and recommended two schools.
I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but a couple months later I impulsively signed up for both—Ahern’s 200-hour intensive and Spirit Winds’ entire curriculum of Thai massage classes—which totaled to a $5200 whim, without seriously considering whether I’d ever get a return on the investment. It might turn into a new vocation or a new passion, or it might not. I had the money for the time being and thought it’d be better spent on exploring a new skill than on rent or more stuff and things.


I coax Alex to come outside for a cigarette, and suddenly the answers to my stagnation come pouring out.
“You know, my first impulse on that last day of class was to arrange when I could come back—to sign up to re-take some classes and deepen my training, and to return to Nevada City for little vacations from life, now that I’m familiar enough with this place to be comfortable, and have people I know I could stay with. Or just to take some more massage classes, in general. But, really, that’s what this whole year’s been, and my memory’s been vague. I’ve been living the same pinball life, but honestly, I’ve been on crutches.”
“So you think you just want to close up this chapter?”
“Yeah. At least for a long, long time—at least until coming back would feel completely new again. We’ve done so much cool shit this year, but it’s largely been things we both knew how to prepare for. Working festivals was a cool new experience, but it only takes doing one to know what kind of experience to expect on at least a basic level, so I don’t want to do it again. Even being on a Burning Man project where I’d learn new skills, like this year—of course it’d be a new experience, but not the same kind of new. I’d know some of the people, the sort of skills I’d be learning. Going to New Zealand, at this point in our lives, even though I’ve never been—I’ve got an idea of what we’d be doing there, and who’d be there. Sarah said when she went, it almost felt just like visiting relatives, since the trip was structured around people she already knew, doing things like what she’s already been doing. I want to go, but not right now—not when we’d have such an obvious itinerary.”
“I’m with you. That’s why I suggested we skip New Zealand. Southeast Asia’s something neither of us have a real concept of, except for stories we’ve heard.”
“Exactly. And I know it’s kind of the standard baby’s-first-backpacking-trip, it’d be new for us, and neither of us has any idea what we’d end up doing there once we arrive. And that’s when I feel alive, and when I feel inspired. And this week I came here to house-sit, all isolated and comfortable and hoping I’d be able to write. And all I’ve really done is looked through old writing I never quite finished, wondering where all my inspiration’s gone. Till today, now that we’re about to leave. And we’ve done so much cool shit this year, I couldn’t figure out why I haven’t been inspired by it. But now it’s obvious. This year’s been just as dynamic and full from an outsider’s perspective as last—but I always knew what was coming. I planned most of it. The times this year we’ve been happiest—in general, with ourselves, with each other—have been the times we were winging it and didn’t know what we’d be doing in ten minutes, two hours, two days. And times like that have been in the minority for a while. And it’s gotten me so lazy. Scared to go abroad because I don’t have tons of money—but really, I’ve got money for a plane ticket, and then some. I probably have enough to reserve as a small cushion for when we get back. What’s the problem? And yet I’ve been resistant. It’s just inertia, really….”
The town hasn’t changed, and Janice’s classes are all pretty similar in structure, but that internal difference in my approach is the variable that matters. It almost feels like a betrayal—to fall in love with a place, then slowly come to realize it’s becoming stifling when, after all, there are still more things to learn and do and see within it. I must just be fickle—it’s my problem, not the town’s.
And that’s true, in a way. But the point isn’t for me to chastise myself and try and force an effort to keep my passions for places, lifestyles, or experiences alive—the point is that my favorite thing about life is that there’s so much contained within it that I’ll never run out of things to sample, and that process of sampling is what’s shaped me.
Alex is looking off into space, shivering a bit, but I know he’s heard me. Most of the time, he’s figured things out the same time I do—or sooner.
I gather my blanket up and head inside, full of gratitude. “Let’s get out of here tomorrow and get those tickets, and keep living. I think I’m going to go write, finally.”
“Yes. Good. I like that.”
“Want to play in a bit? We should clean up around here soon, too.”
“Just finish whatever you start.”

Friday, November 22, 2013


In 2012 I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, on a friend's suggestion. Hoping to finish early enough to leave time that month to reunite with a boy I'd met at Burning Man, I cut off all other activities [minus taking a Thai massage class--which, incidentally, is what I'm doing this week as well] and isolated myself in trendy coffee shops, surviving on quiche and biscotti in an obsessive fervor.

It paid off. I finished in just over two weeks, partied that night to celebrate with some of those people I'd been militantly ignoring in the pursuit of raising my word count, then went on a loop around the Southwest that played out like an absurdist's wet dream with the boy I'd then just met and am now still disgusting-twitterpated over.

Yeah, though, NaNoWriMo. I'd recommend it to anyone vaguely interested in creative writing, but especially to writers [or would-be writers] held back by an edit-as-you-go neurosis [like me], which can be paralytic to those who'd rather not write at all than risk writing something bad. It's all about quantity over quality.

Of course, busting out 50,000 words of fiction in two weeks means a lot of what I wrote is irredeemable garbage, and some of it is probably beyond comprehension--but I figure that's kind of the point. And eventually I might even go back and try to tie it all into something that makes a little more sense--that's both the luxury and the daunting pressure of writing fiction, for a change. I can edit people in and out on a whim, change the ending, all that jazz--but then, of course, I'm completely responsible for it, whereas real life I can just buff up and relay--BAM!

It's November again, but I'm not ass-cannoning a draft this year. However, in the spirit of what I think is a really awesome idea, here's an excerpt plucked from last year's:


I don’t love a city for its seafood restaurants, its commercial avenues, its people. I don’t love a city for its fashion sense, it’s street fairs, its local haunts. Not for its level of criminal activity, and for neither its cheap taco trucks nor its fine dining. Not for its music scene, its job market, its housing prices, its public transit, its prevalence of free parking. Not for its street performers nor its lack thereof, not for its office buildings nor its historical districts, its Chinatowns, its nightlife.
            What’s left?
I love a city for its rooftops, its sewers, its abandoned warehouses. For penetrable structures that were never meant to be penetrated, and never designed with aesthetics or comfort in mind. I love a city for its shut down buildings. I love those taggers who are artists and historians more than vandals, whose marks on such relics are like a nod “hello” from across a crowd too dense for you to swim through in order to reach one another. A nod “I see you.” A nod “I know.”
            Just as I love a person for their disgusting idiosyncracies, the momentum of their bodies—a biological autonomy their minds can’t veto. Not for their “unique sense of style” or their “quirkiness”, or the bullshit traits they construct and exaggerate with the hopes of seeming interesting or mysterious.
            I love a person for the way they cry when there’s no more holding back, some variety of viscous release oozing from every hole in their blotched head. For the silent pleas they make to themselves when they wank off—not the bullshit moans they make to convince their partner that they’ve given themselves up to the experience when they’ve done anything but. I love a person for their insomnia. I love a person for the things they’ll never admit to me: their neurotic fascination with vomit, or their habit of occasionally eating their earwax or boogers or scabs when no one’s around, or of smelling the insides of their piercings or biting off their toenails, or their fetishistic attraction to whatever. For the way their smell changes as they get older, that subtle fermentation. For their private rituals and traditions so deeply ingrained into the clockwork of their lives that they don’t even realize they’re secrets, for the private superstitions that they deny humoring. For the things they might look up, the Facebook profiles they might sift through of their long-gone-someones from five relationships ago, the pictures they might save so long hoping no one else will ever know. For the way they handle the unspeakable indiscretions—accidentally running over someone else’s cat, accidentally shitting in someone else’s shower, accidentally sexting someone else. The momentary freezing, followed by the dichotomous fight-or-flight, and whatever cover-ups their overloaded brains can cough up. For the way some of them might sit up at night, alone, stricken by some secret terror, some grand Question that suddenly makes them feel as if their entire life is a worthless sham and what the hell can they do about it so that they don’t sit up at night feeling that way?

Riding the bus I could see our reflections in the scratched-up windows. We matched. Dark oversize hoodies and jeans, hair covered in dust and cobwebs, faces worn out and stretched thin from the abuse we’d been subjecting our bodies to, extra-gaunt under the fluorescent light, which gave way to blemishes that would be invisible during the daytime, under the more forgiving light of the sun. On the back of the bus slept a crumpled man in a crumpled suit, but otherwise it was empty save for the two of us.
As if picking up from the middle of a conversation, Kai asked me, “Why didn’t you go?”
“What, why? Because I’m sick of being elected Mama, and I don't want to hear about Gary's dog's bladder infection or about how he's getting fat or his dad died eight years ago or his rent. He's sent me pictures, too. The dent in his car, himself drunk and crying. He's been drunk all the time. Hence all the bitching." 
“Passive-aggressive, much?”
"Fuck off--I've told him to stop calling so much, and anyway who has the energy to be on-the-table all the fucking time, with fucking everybody? So, I’ve been harboring a bit of resentment, yeah. I guess that part's my bad, not his.”
“Everybody? I thought you guys were hooking up?"
"Ha. You're cute."
"If not, you should consider it—that’s generally the easiest way to get rid of him.”
“Whether or not I could stomach that anymore, he won’t even.”
“’Won’t even…’? Have you seriously tried and failed?”
“I used to think I liked him or something, before I learned he's an energy vampire.”
Kai raised an eyebrow at my non-answer answer but allowed me to divert the conversation, so I did.
“Like, the whole sucking blood, only he tries to drain my well-being. He doesn’t just want to confide in me—he wants to get under my skin and make me feel his pain, but constantly. Like he can outsource his shit and feel better. So he wants me to be on fucking call, to feel guilty when I’m happy and he’s not. I don’t know when he decided I owed that to him, but there you go.”
“That’s a side of him I’ve never heard of, and I’ve known the guy for years. Also, you don’t seem like the maternal type. You're not the right mode of bitch.”
“See, that’s what I think, too. I keep getting elected without running. Like I said."
“I don't know if I buy that. You make yourself out to sound all innocent, but it's not hard to picture some very conscious manipulative tendencies in you. But what do I know? And anyway, I've never seen you in action.”
“You just never put my boot to your skull. And you’re probably right, on some level. I’m just a disenfranchised girl caught in a web of disenfranchised men caught in my web.”
"Now you're just romanticizing yourself. I never said that." 
The bus reached its last stop and we reemerged into some forgotten infrastructural corner of the night, the air smelling of smog and promise.

I lagged behind a bit, taking it all in. It’s not that there was a whole lot to see—industrial buildings and warehouses, a monochromatic network of steel pipes and concrete. Dark unlit streets, the shadows of the part of the city that is a part of the default world. Pavement looking like the teeth of someone who’s been making out with a sledgehammer.
But there was a thrum to these neighborhoods, a dark pulse. The pulse of the former, the never-beens, the long-dead. The negative space, the pause between places.
If all the world’s a stage, then these places I sought out were backstage, collectively forming a subtropolis of which I was the sole citizen. That citizenship wasn’t defined on a physical level, and I was never the first or only to walk across the thresholds of these places—but when I occupied them, the former residents or employees, the builders of these places, the taggers, the teenaged summer flings craving heated solitude, the strung-out shadowselves, the other explorers like me, even Kai, were all as incorporeal as ghosts. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Anyone home?

After almost three months, I'm back. It's been a while since I've had regular Internet access.

I've spent the day scrounging up some more miscellaneous writing [old and new], which I'll be posting over the coming little-while [i.e., I'll have another post up within a couple days], but thought I'd throw up a quick scatterbrained update just to assert that, yes, I'm still here, and no, this particular blog hasn't yet been hucked into the virtual landfill of countless abandoned webpages.

Oh! For starters, I've been published by Rebelle Society again. A poem this time. I actually wrote the poem when I was seventeen, but hadn't submitted or shared it until now [it's taken me a while to get over my poetry-sharing jitters and biases]. And here it is! Bam!

Otherwise, in case anyone's interested, this is a brief summary of where I've been:

--On the playa for a couple weeks--the first of which was spent working exhaustively on Skyler's Escapade: the big, bad fire-shooting monstrosity built mostly by our five-man crew, that was to sit atop the sixty-five foot bamboo Control Tower [pictured below]. At one point, this involved my getting on top of the Tower in nothing but a climbing harness and hard hat [not pictured below]. Then, of course, there was the whole Burning Man thing itself.

Control Tower at sunrise; photo by my friend Miko
Dancetronauts party in front of the Control Tower.
Not pictured: the flame effects crew [which included myself] gleefully pushing buttons while yelling cathartically.
Photo: Jason Mongue
--Hedonistically decompressing, first at a snazzy oceanfront property in Capitola, mainly with friends from overseas, then in Reno for a week, where I was overloaded with decadent cheese and beer and stayed up past sunrise nightly talking and laughing with good friends, clearing some deadwood out of my life.

--Up in Oregon with my co-person, where we spent three days at a new intentional community/boarding school: a huge post-apocalyptic wonderland comprised of several huge-former-Christian-camp buildings--among them treehouse cabins a la Peter Pan's lost boys and a large auditorium--being reclaimed by a Rivendell-esque rainforest; garnished with a meadow-turned-edible-garden and two lakes. Then we left and headed vaguely southward governed by our whims, which led us to prodding at farm animals, skinny-dipping on a private beach after dark, geeking out over Salvador Dali originals, late-night-shitty-motel-acrylic-painting, and so on.

--Working hard on a friend's farm, having good clean scatological fun [like landing on top of a tampon-pooping dog while attempting naked acrobatics], read my first book in a while [Haruki Murakami's novel, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle], reclaimed my sense of personal power through some rather uncomfortable introspection, and had a great Halloween fueled by lipstick, whisky, and the sunset.

So it's been a good run. I look forward to having a bit of time to organize my thoughts and work on some writing and music. Been laying low, visiting family and some old friends I haven't allotted enough time for. Next week marks my very last Thai massage class, which I imagine will be somewhat bittersweet.


Alex is right; I ought to get a camera and start taking more photos, rather than relying on whatever it is my smart-phone- or camera-wielding friends elect to record.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Off to the playa tomorrow...

...with THIS thing...

...which will shoot 20-to-30-foot fireballs [not to mention the massive cannon, and the spinner whirligig that'll come out of the very center]...

...from atop a 65-foot bamboo tower covered in interactive LEDs [and lasers up top].

The contraption in the photo [which has since been embellished/optimized/etc.] was built by a few scruffy kids and myself [about seven-ish of us] up in soggy NorCal.

Doing errands to get ready for the Burn today has been a delirious escapade involving a ferris wheel and beanbag fight.

Also: it's my birthday today.

Also: desert rain.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Early Burn

 [i.e., The Drunken One-Night Stand that was Doomed from its Inception to Result in Falling Deliriously, Cathartically, Psychedellically in Love]

August 18th, 2012
Black Rock City, NV

There’s a pulchritude to brand new words, words that emerge into the sphere of your cognizance as your eyes scan over a page, continuously registering each word with a lazy familiarity, until your fluid commute through symbols is suddenly jarred—momentarily the brakes are slammed before a STOP sign you’d barely noticed was there—and you’re compelled to contemplate, for a moment, this new configuration borne of the alphabet with which you’re generally so familiar. Instead of taking the word in as a whole, you make discrete jumps from letter to letter, piecing the word together, determining its probable pronunciation. The sentence is revisited—you back up a line, maybe a few lines—in search of context that might give form to your shiny new lexical vagary.

That’s how it was when we met.


Granted, the context was just as definitionally elusive as the vagary in question.

In my memory, everything was bathed in dark red light—though that could just be me getting stuck in the mnemographic darkroom of my hippocampus, in which all memories are too fragile to appear yet outside of a controlled, Luciferian-hued darkness: perhaps the memories were never clear enough to be fully consolidated and subsequently added to the archives for my nostalgic perusal; perhaps I was too drunk or too drugged on enchantment to earn their retention…and yet some backstage part of me knew not to let those memories slip away, even if it meant viewing them in cognitive purgatory, as consciousness-sensitive as an undeveloped photo is light-sensitive; perhaps through will I held onto what should’ve been a blacked-out sort of night as one might will themselves away from waking up, clutching fast to subconsciousness so as to linger in a dream.
Or perhaps everything really was bathed in dark red light.

The scene is blurred in my recollection—people were everywhere but I was in myself, and otherwise focused sequentially on individuals, as on letters in a new word, never seeing the social scene in its entirety.

There was fire in plasma-cut burn barrels, there were floating loveseats dangling off the ends of chains, suspended from what must’ve been a sort of ceiling-esque shade structure, though I don’t remember any such structure firsthand and only say that because I remember the seats, and the chains, and it follows that they must’ve been hanging from something.

There was a lot of leather—I remember the leather rather than the people who were wearing all of it—and a man in studded goggles being dragged on his skateboard by a van from 1955, almost entirely obscured by the resultant dust, as I watched from out of the van’s back window. An older woman with blonde hair and feathered lines in her bubblegum lips and wearing a scanty, large-holed fishnet dress made of what appeared to be bicycle tires had sat down in my lap and purred to me what a pretty kitty I was while burrowing plastic French tips into my hair.

All of this occurred in a bubble of noise and leatherclad fiction around me—maybe a bubble fifty feet square—beyond the boundaries of which was a flat, vast, and empty flat vast emptiness. Salvador Dali’s desert sans melting clocks and stilt-legged elephants, but ultimately just as surreal.

By some synaptic misfirings I could no longer remember, I was wearing a suede brown loincloth I’d “found” in the kitchen of my former house in South Lake Tahoe and a denim-and-brocade jacket I’d been given during a photo shoot in Washington, D.C. that appeared to be the result of a Willy-Wonka-meets-Captain-Hook-meets-Michael Jackson-inspired aesthetic, only with a fit conducive to leaving nothing of the wearer’s body to the imagination. As a result, I found myself just as alien as my surroundings if not more so, and in a moment of misandry [after being groped by a man to whom I’d been talking about gold prospecting, admittedly trying to see if I could talk my way into a job operating heavy machinery] decided to drink away my crankiness a la bottomless rum and coke.

Summarily, there was really nothing in my sensory range that could serve as a reference point. Grouchily I drank, because the booze was free and I wasn’t feeling much like an interpersonal sort of being, and booze, at least, was something I could recognize.


This is what I’ve pieced together in a rough chronology:

Girl clutches drink as if it’s her one anchor to this strange world. Girl rebukes invasively touchy-feely older man, retreats to a section occupied by females, and receives comparable treatment from touchy-feely older women. Girl feels stupid for having worn uncharacteristically skimpy clothing, and forcibly relieves herself of urine in the shadow of a car, while drunken incorporeal notions slosh through her drunken head. Girl feels grumpy, tired, trapped, and uncharacteristically insecure.
Girl notices as group of seemingly happy people who also look out of place enter the premises, wearing jeans and Tshirts rather than blending in with the leatherclad norm. Girl witnesses tall, goofy-haired boy with large smile make deadpan satirical observation about the frivolity of social niceties that his peers fail to laugh at or [ostensibly] understand at all. Girl finds this observation funny; Girl laughs. Boy is stricken by this unexpected laughter and looks bemusedly at Girl. Neither Boy nor Girl gives much conscious thought to the exchange and each proceed with the night without much conscious registry of the other—Boy with his friends [most of whom were later revealed to be on mushrooms], and Girl with her inner bloviating.

Girl finds herself stuffed into van with throng of other drunk, laughing people—mostly of the abnormally normally-dressed clan she’d admired from afar—and is unconsciously hyperaware of the presence of the aforementioned large-smiled Boy [an awareness unearthed only in her retrospective analyses of the night]. Girl emerges at yet another end-of-the-world, jerryrigged Dalinian bar. Girl finds herself at some point being carried around by the jovial Boy and is surprised to discover she does not feel as if he is commoditizing her so much as simply being jovial. Girl kicks some nondescript would-be-groper in the face as he tries to reach under her loincloth while she is being carried in the arms of Boy; Boy laughs. They separate. Girl drinks more, already having forgotten Boy’s emergence in the vague perceptive whirlpool-dustcloud characteristic of inebriation that has been her perspective for the last several hours.

Girl sits on the ground in corner, tired but uninspired to hunt through the empty flat vastness for her trailer. Boy and Friend of Boy approach jovially and seat themselves in chairs next to her. Girl expresses that she feels somewhat sick. Boy and Friend laugh and titter in commiseration; Boy scratches Girl’s head as Friend strokes Girl’s hand. Girl is uncharacteristically soothed and even more uncharacteristically unsuspicious by this contact. Inspired and in the spirit of Universal Love, Girl asks Boy and Friend to tell her about themselves. Boy speaks with the sincerity and innocent swagger of a child about his life; Girl finds Boy’s enthusiasm infectious and truly registers his existence for the first time. Girl strokes Friend’s hand with genuine compassion, sensing Friend’s mild envy of Girl’s newfound fascination with Boy.

Friend departs to bathroom.

Girl and Boy continue conversation. Mostly Girl is feeling misanthropic and vaguely nauseous, and is earnest about these feelings but actively tries not to victimize due to a growing desire for Boy’s esteem. Girl scoots closer to Boy to proffer more of her scalp for him to scratch, as she finds this soothing. Girl lean’s head on Boy’s knee and kisses it in the spirit of Universal Platonic Affection For Strangers, or so she believes. Boy attempts to mask his mild surprise, but is clearly not displeased, and continues scratching Girl’s scalp.

Somewhere in the space of thirty seconds, Girl and Boy find themselves seated in the same clamshell-seat-suspended-from-chains, faces connected in what Girl notes with surprise is the best kiss she’s ever experienced, despite mutual drunkness and stranger-ness and never-having-kissed-each-other-before-ness. Girl cannot remember how kiss came about: when conversation fell away, nor by whom contact was initiated. Friend’s return either never happens, or goes unnoticed. 

Universe becomes contained in chair, Boy and Girl become specimens in a perceptual fishtank looking in, in, inward…and then looking out:

Kiss dissolves. Antagonizing but harmless witty banter commences from both sides. Observations of social surroundings are made. Laughter happens.

Kiss continues.

Cycle repeats for some time.

Girl makes snarky comment about how Boy has probably been aiming to get lucky through the entirety of the night, and commends him on being a Smooth Operator and disguising his motives better than proximal other men.

Boy halts abruptly. Boy does not deign to good-naturedly humor Girl or dismiss comment with chuckle, but instead calls her out on her arrogance.
“Dude. That is such an entitled 'hot girl' thing to say. So you think I’ve just been trying to get into your pants all night? Because, of course, everyone in here is trying so hard to fuck you, right? Well, what about you--who says you’re automatically entitled to getting in mine? You just automatically assume that that's how I want to end the night? Maybe I wanted to go back to camp and party with my friends. Maybe you won’t get lucky because here I was enjoying our conversation, and then you started saying things like that and I realized you were just another 'hot girl'.”

Boy appears disillusioned and indignant and, it is worth noting, not the least bit horny.
Girl pauses, stunned. Slowly, Girl weaves her words together.

“Thank you…for calling me out. I think most guys—most people—would lower their standards once they’re making out with someone who’s curled in their lap, and just let unsavory words pass over without caring. I mean, most people aren’t seeking virtue in their booty calls. And you’re right…that attitude makes me a hypocrite. It makes me as simple as these men I’ve been getting mad at tonight, and it’s me playing the same game that they are. And if I want to be seen as a human, not a female, I should see other people as humans, not males.”

Boy is now the stunned one. Girl kisses boy on the forehead and humbly requests that he follow her to her trailer, adding that she is inviting him not to acquiesce his assumed interest, but because she herself harbors an independent interest. However, if Boy accepts he must first help her find a secluded patch of desert upon which to urinate unseen.
Boy exhibits signature large smile in sheepish agreement. Kissing continues until Girl’s bladder approaches critical pressure. Girl takes Boy's hand and they stand; the sudden reemergence into a Universe outside Adam-Eve-ecosystem they’d created renders her momentarily shocked and unsteady, abruptly woken into a dark red dream. Girl and Boy exit.

“Fuck, it’s cold. Let’s walk faster.”

“You’re cold? I’m wearing fucking skivvies and I feel great!”

“You’re wearing a liquid blanket.”

“You’re fucking drunk, too!

“So where’s this trailer, fancypants?”

“You know what? That’s a really good question…”


“And strictly speaking it wouldn’t be fancypants so much as no-pants.”

“Oh, look! Blinking light things—I think those are people coming towards us.”

“Hey, good call….Excuse me! Hey—Excuse me! Do you know where the Commissary is?”

 “Yeah, it’s over that way.”

“Holy shit, thank you so much."

“No problem, kids. We’re not really here, after all. You're just tripping balls.”


“We’re in your imaaaginaaaation!”

Cackling exhaustedly as the figments of their imagination bide them goodnight and pass them by, Boy and Girl shuffle in the direction of a warm indoor space. Boy acknowledges his approval in the form of a Whoa, followed by, “This sleeps like six people…what the fuck, DPW just gave this to you?”

“For right now, I guess. But hang on, I have to pee…”

Girl gets distracted from her quest to pee and instead jumps onto Boy, kissing his face in a display of transcasual affection. Boy laughs, but not uncomfortably.

Girl flaunts ability to pee standing up and stubs her toe on the skeleton of a disassembled geodesic dome. Toe bleeds, but not profusely. Boy laughs again, but not belittlingly.

Girl flatulates theatrically. Boy makes a tasteful joke involving bodily fluids. Banter continues in this high-brow fashion for some time and both parties exercise poker faces amidst vague whirlwind of incensed libido. Girl gets antsy.



"So, do you want to have sex tonight?"

Boy considers.

"Of course I do."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rebelle Society Debut

The other week, I submitted some of my writing for the very first time ever.

As of yesterday, my article is live at Rebelle Society. Stoked. To say the least. 8]

Beginner's luck, maybe. I hope not. At any rate, I'm beginning to approach this whole Writing Thing with a newfound sense of possibility, and am broiling up several more pieces for submission. Yee.

That being said, this month is going to be sort of crazy. Currently stationed in a loft in a warehouse/studio doohickey learning pyrotechnics, and the succeeding weeks don't look as if they'll slow down for a while. As per usual-ish.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Coming Home

April 26th, 2012
Bridgeport, CA

For me, being in the desert is an exercise in sensory enhancement by means of sensory deprivation.

At first, nothing is striking. There’s some sagebrush, cricket noises. Everything seems a bit monochromatic. Then hits a point when, suddenly, those mountains in the distant look purple, green, that plateau is a vibrant red, those dunes a creamier yellow, and the bushes are blue amidst pink and orange stones. There’s music in the wind—a tinkling. And the smells. Clean, redeeming smells—the heady, violet smell of succulent shade-dwelling sage.

Whenever I’m sitting in some apartment, some coffee shop, some subway, and I dig into the archives of my memory and pull anything out labeled “desert”, the memories are huge. They’re not intricate, but they’re enormous—they take up more space, project onto a larger screen. The sky is always bigger, my clothes always billowing cinematically in the wind like out of some trendy movie with a soundtrack by some up-and-coming singer-songwriter with thick glasses and tight pants from some city in the Midwest—in my memory there’s practically lens flare. Desert memories age well.


I spent the morning running around the desert with him, clambering over boulders, chasing lizards and snakes in wind so strong I was lifted off my feet a couple times. At one point I found a pale pink desert rose—it had turned out to be fake, but it was a desert rose anyway by virtue of my finding it, I decided.

We didn’t touch each other, didn’t curl up together amidst the rocks or hold hands. He wasn’t much for touching.

But for once—for the first time, probably—we were enjoying this enchanted landscape together, without his single-minded obsession over climbing. Granted, it might’ve only been because the wind was too strong to make climbing a palatable option, but he was feeling the magic with me anyway, and that was what mattered.

“I love this wind.”

“Do you?”

“I don’t know, strong warm wind kind of just feels like an affirmation. It instills this sense of transformation and movement in me—like a propulsion into the next chapter. And it makes me feel more aware—of my surroundings, of my body. It turns me on at least as much as any man has.”

“…Totally.” He didn’t get it. I’d gotten used to this.


He gave me a piece of homework, right before I left.

"I wrote you a letter before we were together. During the dark part. It was maybe a year and a half ago and I was driving from Bishop to Vegas and passed through Furnace Creek in Death Valley. I hid it under a large rock--you're going to go through Furnace Creek, and after you pass it there'll be a small green sign on your right, telling you you're one hundred feet below sea level. That's where I left it. Go see if it's still there."

He showed me on one of the road maps he'd scrounged up for my journey; he’d made a big motherly fuss over me before I could wiggle my way out, making sure I had everything I might need.

We were in the Vons parking lot in Bishop, CA, and he completely forgot that he hates PDA for a second…for a few seconds.

He handed me the maps, broke away reluctantly, and said, "Go be free."

I smiled, pulled him in gently by his curly hair and whispered carelessly, "I'll come back."

And that was it.

He smiled at me and nodded, but when he turned around and walked back to his car there was a quality to his body language implying he was in a state of saving-face-in-front-of-the-firing-squad. Despite our historical inability to relate to one another, on this particular day he understood me better than I understood myself.

That was it; I just didn’t know it yet.

Plugging in my inverter and slipping off my dress and my shoes as I speed down the 395, I'm finally home again. For me, home is breaking inertia--moving when I'm stagnant, resting once I'm spent.
Like everyone else, I have my weaker moments. Sometimes I go crazy, stop thinking straight, and overreact towards—even past—the point of nervous breakdown. Sometimes I’m prone to self-pity, that fat cannibalistic luxury the most privileged of us beset upon ourselves. And that’s what uncertainty is so good at curing—when you’ve got to make decisions and take things into your own hands, you don’t have time to sit in a masturbatory pool of tears no matter how sensitive or weak you’re feeling.

I haven’t been around for very long, but I’ve been around long enough to know that the victimization we seem to so sanction as a culture hasn’t really gotten anyone shit.

Sure, it might win you a court case, get you a sympathy fuck and sometimes a job. On occasion it’ll get you rich and famous.

But it won’t really get you shit.

I turn left onto the 190, windows down, butt naked, wet with adrenaline and testosterone. The wind rocks my car harder the faster I go, and at a few points I feel weightless. I'm not in a car, but a helpless plastic box of a car, a paper boat, a cheap tent. Up ahead in the distance, torrential clouds of sand completely blacken out large patches of Death Valley--right in the direction I'm headed. The sun's going down and an especially furious bit of wind has me drifting into the wrong lane, so I go faster. For some reason, I feel close to death--not as if I'm in danger of dying, but more so that I'm being overtaken by one of those moments when life feels too big for a mere mortal to contain without blowing a fuse, one of those moments when life's fucking me rough in ten thousand ways at once with sensory overload and existential euphoria and there's not a damn thing I can do to stop it, one of those moments when I'm just moving way too damn fast to catch up with myself.

Propping my left leg up on my dashboard, I focus on my right foot and try to press my gas pedal down through the bottom of my car, feeling as sprung and turned on as any pretty little bygone man ever got me.

Dark dust clouds lay just ahead spatially, darkness of night lay just ahead on the axis of time.

Once again approaching an edge of the world, I drive into a remote, service-free expanse feeling at once freed in the knowledge that if anything bad were to happen to me, I’ll be unable to call for help. It’s this knowledge that helps force into me a true presence of being.

A vague thrill, a latent fear, being overwhelmed in each passing moment.

The temperature outside reads sixty-three degrees Fahrenheit.

In a flash I’m flying past the prettiest sand dune I’ve ever seen, though of course it also looks like every other sand dune on Earth. Something about it compels me, this particular innocuous, round lump of sand—perhaps only as arbitrary as the particular attractions we may find in the curve of a particular shoulder, a particular pair of lips, a particular set of eyelashes or forearms or breasts.

After ten seconds’ hesitation, a sense of urgency even greater than the urgency pulling me towards my next rest stop compels me to flip a bitch and detour back to it. My mind shut off, running on some ulterior automatic mode, I slam the car door shut and emerge from my capsule, caressed in the spiced orange rays of the setting sun. Shoes in one hand, keys in another, I sprint across the street, across the sage-dotted sand, and collapse naked into my dune.

It’s a magestic thing, under the sun. The sand is bracingly warm and cool, soft fragments of hard stone, and compulsively I crawl up to the top, rushing until I’m short of breath, enjoying the sensation of my breathing as it snatches frantically in the air. Across the top I sprawl, opening my body to the sky, and roll over to watch the sand drip down like sheets of honey as my body disturbs it. Lazily I follow the path of a spider for a few moments as it ascends the dune after me. Swiftly embedding the heel of my palm into the sand again, I send another of these sheets down to meet the spider and obstruct its path—but the spider exceeds my expectations and only runs faster, leaping up onto the descending sheet and running atop it rather than allowing itself to be swallowed by it and carried back to the bottom. I smile at the small bug’s perseverance, then roll down the hill myself, plating my body in a fine coat of sand that shakes off dryly by the time I’ve run all the way back to my car.

I let the door hang open and lean my seat back, taking a moment to bask in my post-coital daze before continuing onward.

An hour later, sudden darkness falls. Like clockwork, the wind starts up, visible, even opaque, painting in 3-D with the sand it carried—little abstract pictures brought to life by the lonely beams of my headlights.

Everything changes in the dark, and I’m now in the belly of some merciless beast—a ghost in a capsule, quietly trying to make my way through, tensing my gut and holding my breath in hopes it’ll save me from detection by the nebulous dark patrollers of my imagination.

Steadily the thermometer creeps up as the night deepens—the thermometer reads eighty-one degrees.

Such is the nocturnal sorcery of Death Valley.


I made it to Furnace Creek—the place he’d designated for his letter. I’d even found the rocks he’d described. However, I’d also found an unexpected addition, hinting to me what I’d find before I had a chance to look, in the form of another rock lying very pointedly on top.

The letter was gone. I contented myself with the thought that the anonymous rock-adder had found it and stolen it for themselves as some precious relic.

Somehow, this struck me as a cleaner resolution than if I’d found it. After all, that letter was an artifact marking the start of a dark age of love synthesized in hatred. I continued on—car thermometer now reading ninety-eight degrees—disappointed on the surface, but leaking out a small glimmer of a smile that came from somewhere deeper.

Not for a moment during my drive was I able to shake that feeling of intimacy with something dark and nameless, that feeling of proximity with the underside of consciousness, some world we may only be privy to in dreams of death. I drifted in and out of thought and was eventually jolted out of my reverie when I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting a sign marking the end of my road, and the start of a fork that would lead me back into the land of the living—Las Vegas, in this case. I took a right and followed the directions through unfamiliar roads to the house of a girl whose handwriting I knew better than her face, where I'd spend the next night or two. Paradoxically, it struck me that after a long winter, I was returning home.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


As I sang Lhasa’s song I thought, It’s such a strange miracle that we can create something so profound and beautiful that it outlives us…that it almost ceases to be ours. At least, it does if our work is great enough.

To me, Lhasa existed only in the context of her music, to me she’s an idea, someone now dead who once crooned contralto syrup. But she was once a woman who’d probably had her share of secrets and neuroses and unrequited loves—of cruelty, pettiness, regrets, humiliations, narcissism, humbling moments, maybe moments of transcendence, maybe nervous breakdowns. She was once a woman who shat and farted and possibly snored or drooled in her sleep, a woman who’d caught the flu, who’d maybe at some point questioned God or Purpose or Love or Free Will. Or perhaps she was just a Plain Jane Doe who happened to be gifted with a haunting voice. In any case, she’s no longer any of those things, but there I was, softly singing Spanish syllables as Alex broke his own stillness with a sudden exhalation of nitrous oxide, his eyes closed and his head leaned back, exposing his throat to the mostly-full now-waning moon, one hand sticking out of the bubbling-glittering hot water that came up past our chests, long fingers curled gently as if around some giant maternal finger. Head back in a moment of complete surrender I felt privileged to witness, he sat very still as he always did when doing Whip-Its, a stark contrast to my own behavior under their influence.

Under the moonlight and the patio roofing’s shadows, Alex’s body was a cold thing—frozen milk, smooth and devoid of the blemishes and landmarks that betray us as organic creatures. A blue configuration of marble hacked by the anonymous criss-crossing shadows of Night. Though I tend to search obsessively for the base and animal in others, somehow, in all his present sterility, he rendered me a Pygmalion. The cavity of his collarbone was full of the moon, a pool of iridescent liquid. After a moment he turned into the shadow and became a silhouette, his own shadow-self, a palimpsest of the Daytime, real-life waking version, and with the quietest of sounds tasted and then exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke, expired a white ghost of the breath that had once been life-giving oxygen until his body had drained it in hunger. We borrow life from the air around us, then dispose it in satiety, suckling the Universe long after we’ve been weaned from our flesh-and-blood mothers.

“Did you know that inspiration can also mean inhalation, and expiration can mean exhalation?”


 Earlier that night we’d watched Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.

“There’s such a different narrative style—a lot of Japanese storytelling seems to be that way. Lots of moments, images. Beginnings, and fragments of dialogue, snapshots. That’s sort of more how my mind works. That’s sort of what keeps me from writing, I guess—I feel like I need to draw up something cohesive, bookended within a beginning and an end. Linear, for the most part—even if it’s told out of order, there’s ultimately a discernable timeline. But I can’t churn out that Hero’s Journey stuff. I wander in other directions, or I don’t have a resolution to a beginning, or I have a scene, a moment, a vignette…that I don’t want to have to explain with loads of context and backstory, and that I don’t want to justify with a resolution. The former seems to me like explaining all the funny out of a joke someone didn’t get, or talking all the magic out of a dream or a mystical experience. And the latter feels to me like turning your work into an advertisement, with some vested interest, some finger-wagging moral at the end that the reader is supposed to come away with, says you. Anyway, life isn’t like that. I didn’t set out on one journey and then resolve it up neatly just on time for the sequel—the strings of my life all mesh into each other in this gnarled, overlapping tangle of causality and coincidence.”

“Just write that, then.”

“But people want stories. American people, anyway. If I don’t throw in a plot-twist after some build-up, I’m being lazy.”

“Fuck that. Just write, like you do. A page, or however much. Then write some more. Then some more. Then call it a book when it’s long enough.”

“That’s cheating.”

“Says who? Why don’t you just write without being preoccupied with whether it’s marketable? That’s when your stuff is going to be at its best, anyway. I think you can make a living as a writer, easy. But you can make a living a million other ways. You, specifically. So you don’t need to conform to the market.”


 I put out our cigar and extended my legs through the wiggling water towards Alex’s feet, instinctively soldering a physical link across the infinite gap that exists between two people by default.

“It’s funny, but I feel closest to you at night—when it’s hardest to see you, when the lights are out, except possibly for the moon.

“But I guess it makes sense. Night—true night, like this, quiet and receptive—it’s when we can kind of come out. When we’re not distracted by all the things we’re doing and being and thinking under the sun’s surveillance. It’s like going backstage—backstage behind the production of everyday life, of our social personas and our relationships and roles and manners and mannerisms. It’s when we can wipe off the stage makeup and be honest with ourselves about who we are, but really honest, and possibly extend that into being honest with someone else. It’s when true introspection, true simplicity, true transcendance, true strength, and true experience can creep up from underneath our minds—the ideas, agendas, goals, anxieties. It’s when we can return to the womb, to death, to intangibility and insentience—pre-consciousness.

“But-um, I feel kind of dreamy now. Maybe that’s why I felt so close to you, because a lot of the time we’d sort of be there together. In this surreal place, at night, and there’d be so much and so many people, but a lot of the time we’d just be alone together, and I felt like I was dreaming—but the next day I’d wake up and know you’d been in the dream with me, and you’d remember it too. That’s got to bring people together…I mean, think of how much of our lives we spend dreaming, whether we remember it or not. You can never really share a dream with someone. People sometimes feel really compelled to try—and no one REALLY gives a shit, because it wasn’t their dream, and anyway people suck balls at explaining their dreams. Like, ‘And YOU were there, and then I was a dolphin, and then I was YOU and there was this purple-ness…’. But think. To have a dream and wake up next to someone knowing they were THERE, you don’t have to try to explain it. I think that’s a lot of what drives people to wanting to trip together. But-um, a lot of those nights felt like that, when we met. The first night I met you and then I woke up and you were still there, I was facing the back of some strange boy in my bed, except I didn’t have to shudder and quietly jump out of bed and hope you’d leave soon—because whoever you were, you’d been in the same dream with me.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So, I Just Googled Myself...

...and I found this very old, very silly post a friend of mine had thrown up regarding an email exchange between myself and a former professor several years ago [i.e., 2009].

There's really no good reason to share it now, other than to stoke my own nostalgia. Oh, how different my world was then. 8P

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My First Time with the Desert

March 5th, 2012
Bishop, CA

            My body a fluid, cutting through the air—the air now tangible matter with a weight and pressure consciously felt—oozing through space. With this new, distinct feeling of flow, I walk through the volcanic tablelands before dusk, surrounded by discrete, crisp, particular sounds devoid of reverb—the flap of a crow flying fifty feet away, the clinking crackling pieces of volcanic tuff wiggling and scraping under the gentle weight of my steps.
As I look around me, size loses relevance. The wrinkles in the rolling hills are the same crows feet that show up in his otherwise youthful face during those rare moments when he’s really happy to see me and not concerned with masking or moderating his display of it. The uniformly wide crack I have to step over now is as large as all the canyons at which I’ve pulled over while driving by, in order to stand over them and be engulfed in the terrifying magnetism of their endless drop-offs—a force I had to be consciously alert of and resistant to in order not to fall, jump, or fly. 
I’m miniscule, walking across this expansive desert plateau, but I’m enormous, overlooking the canyon of boulders below, the little moving figures of climbers in their Technicolor tank tops and fleece layers, masquerading as turtles with green and black and red mattresses on their backs.
An old man in a baseball cap, fleece, and cargo shorts walks back to his truck, his big black dog in tow. The man appears stoop-shouldered and goofy-brittle, but hurls a large crash pad into the bed of his truck with ease. I’ve seen the pair of them here before, months ago, but it’s strange that I remember. Since I started branching out I’ve seen countless old men wielding crash pads, dogs, and trucks, and they all smoosh into an unfocused miasma in my memory—perhaps resurfacing only as cast members in my dreams, if the adage is true that we only ever dream up faces we’ve glimpsed awake, if only in passing.
The air here is seductive. Succulent, almost purplish sagebrush and dry open space. The smell wrenches my chest open and pulls my crooked ribcage into the sun. So begins my love affair with the desert.


Last night, I was three and a half hours away. One of the Argentinian girls from Sierra, the Tahoe ski resort I’d face-planted into working for, invited me to a party, and I went alone. So many people, so close that I couldn't walk across a room and breathe at the same time, but so separate. Such a tasteless atmosphere of desperation and loneliness. More than once, I found myself boxed into a corner by some liquor-sloshed and coked-up someone—usually some guy or other from Kirkwood—and he needed me to know about every win and loss he'd experienced at the casinos this season, and he needed to know why he wasn't welcome to fall on me drunk in an attempted kiss, and he needed to know how to change my answer to "What are you doing later?" from "Going home to a boy," into something more favorable to his interests. I ran into my coworker Holly, who laid kisses on me and clutched me like a scared child with an oblivious look on her face, of the sort that suggested oblivion wasn't somewhere she was enjoying after all. Eventually I saw her drink the likely-drugged mixed concoction one of the oafs from Kirkwood had been angrily pushing on me for the last hour or two.
I was so far away from everyone that night.


Tonight, the car jangles clumsily over nondescript dirt roads as we search for an unoccupied hot spring. This part is always something of an aimless quest—without quite knowing where to look, we turn on the brights and poke around wherever there’s somewhat of a turnoff, and sooner or later something pops into the tunnel-vision scope of our headlights, always bringing with its emergence the welcoming impression that it, the particular pool we’ve just found, is precisely the perfect one for the evening.
Walking to the Wild Willies tub of Whitmore Hot Springs underneath the full moon on a crisp pre-storm night feels like walking across the expanses between the worlds we visit in dreams. The wind paints us in goosebumps as we tread over our crisp moon shadows on a stone-lined gravel path through clustered sagebrush and grasses, then ivory-colored boardwalk over stumpy rolling sand dunes until we come across the tub, manmade but irregularly rounded and upholstered in algae.
I turn to him; he’s clutching a bottle of barley wine that we picked up from the market in town.
“So what is it for you about climbing? You’re better at skateboarding and have been snowboarding for way longer. Why climbing, in particular?”
I’ve asked him this question a million times and never gotten a satisfactory answer, but tonight I feel like asking again, anyway.
He thinks it over.
“It’s the group dynamic that climbing makes possible…I didn’t get it snowboarding, or skateboarding. Especially with bouldering, it’s when someone’s spotting you on some sketch highball and they’re there with you. Their breathing matches yours, they know exactly when you’re scared, pumping out, unstable, there’s a level of attention. Empathy that I don’t find anywhere else. I’m not a very empathetic person and you know that, but when I’m climbing with other people who are as stoked on it as I am, the connection is real, even if we were strangers a few minutes ago. I'm more aware of everything and it brings me into my emotions...while other people are there. It's pretty much the only time that happens with me.”
“Almost sounds like Tantric sex.”
He thinks it over.


Tantric climbing. 
He’s always full of cheesy New Age sounding hokum, especially in relation to activities to which the application of such hokum seems even more frivolous than it would otherwise—things like cleaning out the car, or scooting his ass up large igneous rocks clumped together in a canyon.
And as far as climbing goes, I’ve turned into much more of an incidental climber since I began dating one. I’ll spot a line that looks pretty, challenging, and vaguely doable, play on it a while, then scamper off in favor of harassing the local flora and fauna [when it comes to any of the climbing destinations I’ve visited, I tend to be more familiar with which bugs populate each than with which types of rock its climbing is comprised]. Exerting myself out in beautiful, open desert/mountains/canyon means I usually want sex at some point, too—usually at a point when he’s too focused on some rock to be remotely interested. Consequently, when I have paid attention to him as he was climbing, the effect has been more agitating than meditative.
However, this morning, I try it—Tantric spotting. I watch the muscles in his arms wake up—some of them having been out of commission for a while, now crackling into wakefulness like newly-opened glow sticks. The activity spreads into his fingers. I’ve always been attracted to hands. His in particular are extremely knobbly, but strangely elegant. [I once asked him what his favorite body part was, and he told me it was his wrists and used that word to describe them—“elegant”]. More so than other climbers I know, he tends to get very Zen-ified, pre-climb. He wraps his hands around the starting holds with a deliberation I used to wish he’d apply in contexts other than climbing, and I’m able to feel the rock in my hands—the texture of the rock and the coolness it takes in the shade, the slight pain of its shards on his skin [“slight” because it’s only the beginning of the day] and the stress on his finger joints as he weights his hands and sticks his rubber-bound feet onto two miniscule crystals, banking on friction and the exact angle of his pressure. His back tenses on one side, one shoulder, and I notice. My breathing matches his. My calm anticipation matches his. 
We’re in a bit of a cave—a crisp line delineating shade from sun. Gravel, sandy sagebrush—some of it almost purple, it’s so lushly rain-fed—and lots of washed-out orange.
Yawning latissimus dorsi, deltoid dry-humping trapezius. Around each scapula bulge the muscles of his rotator cuff—supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, teres minor, all of them concentrating as he lifts a whittled arm, clavicle high-fiving his sternocleidomastoid, forming a hollow underneath his throat from which I’ve taken drinks of river water and sweat. I can feel his right forearm tire out, the usually bulging veins deliquesce back into his arm, thirsty for blood, and in a moment he’s going to switch hands and give that arm a good shake, letting it dangle for a moment until his heart pumps new life into it.
As the thought crosses my mind, he switches hands. 
Cheeseburger birds in the distance. I’ve forgotten their “real” name and their appearance; both were drab. I first heard them in Kings Canyon and they make their distinctive call across the Sierra when it’s sunny out: “Cheeeeseburger.” 
As I'm watching him, I realize that the moment really isn't about him at all.
Right now, this is my own corner of the universe.


Alone at the base of the canyon writing all of this down, I look into the approaching dust storm and it’s like that haze added to dream scenes in movies—what’s beyond the scope of your tunnel-vision within that fabricated dream. That blank white void not of the unknown, but of the nonexistent. I’ve broken free of some natural law, like I’m finally staring straight-faced into my peripheral vision. 
As a rule, I’m an egomaniacal and strong-willed creature—in my own mind my life tends to hold an importance unparalleled by all of human history and all of the cosmos. I’m a fighter and scared shitless of the idea that I could run out of lucky breaks and stop crawling unharmed from piles of rubble and stupid risks, or else that this body and this mind that I’ve spent my whole life learning to love and cultivate could turn on me, sabotage me, and begin to decay while I’m still occupying them. I’m young and hard and beautiful and convinced for today that I’m immortal.
Still, looking into the dreamscape bleeding like an inkblot across perceptual law into my waking hours, I could die now with no indignation, with body limpid and eyes glassed.