Transcontinental in New York Subway Tunnels

I had no other words to describe them—except “some bongo-like drum.”

He was an older man. Squinting with wrinkles hardened by the pain of a life I didn’t know. Whether it was here or the faraway land he had come from, the mystery behind his wrinkled were deepened by the roots of his repetitive playing.

Such constant focus that he instilled upon the tribal beat hardened the callouses on his face.

I heard the beat of the drum from the slightly bedraggled man of African origin banging a repetitive tribal beat upon drums I had no other word to describe than ‘looking like bongos.’

With callouses on his face, where the constant focus from his squints made his wrinkles appear hardened by the pain of a life I didn’t know. Whether it was where he lived here in the City or whatever faraway land he had come from.

The mystery of his wrinkles were deepened from the deep roots of his repetitive playing. Playing alone with a single drum. Though those who passed ignored him he was in the company of eternal spirits that followed him with intent I wouldn’t know. Perhaps he was at peace—or just a fruitless attempt to fill an everpresent void.

CHARLIE’S COLUMNS

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Gramophones to a Dazed Jukebox

Before I knew it, it was a quarter past seven.

I had felt like I had gotten very little done with my day. Even though I could say the same about the past two days but those entailed human contact. whereas i don’t think i’ve spoken to a single person today. Just barely; a brief interaction with anthony about the internet going out.

Something is up with him. Some issue, some sort of mental health problem. Almost as if he has hoarder tendencies fixated upon anxieties where he plays video games or watches TV on his big screen all the time. Keeping him rather mute to it all. Plus he’s seemed rather edgy lately.

I don’t know why. Perhaps he liked that girl who had been coming and she turned him down, so he’s been down lately—it was weird.

Makes me think about the situation with his father living with us for practically a month. it seemed like an odd attempt to fix him up but only spurred on perhaps an odd resentment between us and his old man, as well as the dynamic between the two. Just too much to get caught up in these days.

I might be out of it myself. Still unable to reach what is bothering me like hell.

That fucking bartender, I hold the begrudging feelings towards. I felt good for a little bit imagining a great defeat over him by simply returning to the bar and just ‘killing him with kindness.’ But then i imagined and wondered—with deep uncertainty as to how I’d respond—if he were to hit back at me about how he fucked that girl and how much of a loser i was for not being able to get over this.

If you were the guy who didn’t care so much and thought it was all such a ‘simple learning experience’—why are you taking it profoundly personally?

It’s because you’re weak and you’re not as great as you make yourself out to be. You are covered with delusions of grandeur in moments of glee then take it back to reality in your dreams—ironically enough.

When you are home all alone and the fatigue kicks in. The fatigue from the reality you can’t cope with. It’s the awful pain setting in remorse for some kind of sin not committed but still permitting it to have acted out on you.

________

I was honest with her but to my chagrin she didn’t reciprocate that honesty.

The intensity from last night lingers. It’s a tough thing to live through the process of poorly built bridges overnight. Temporary due to an impending collapsing as the planners’ insistence on going with the unforeseen routes continued.

What happened last night though was a real fucking moment of putting me through the grinder. It was basically going ahead in such a manner that it totally fucked with me. He just said that one joke about the tourist destination and that’s when my low key demeanor really just blew up and I lost my shit. It was not a pretty scene. Quite awful in fact.

It was the moment I lost the evening I’m not sure how aware I was of it all but it was just too bizarre a situation. Too bizarre a night. They might have just decided to do it just ‘cause they simply felt the need to fuck with me—given my own demeanor and the words coming out of my mouth. Plus I think there was some kind of lack of chemistry going on.

I may have led the way to that night’s demise—but I could just be shaming myself. I guess too I was being very agreeable where she was turned on by the Rob Lowe- handsome guy behind the bar. Where I was basically laughing to myself ‘cause I was completely aware of the simple games the guy was playing.

Just that aspect of being very flirty and slightly difficult—in the way common cliche of himself. I guess maybe I should have said something about it. But I didn’t quite feel comfortable or sure it was a good idea to provoke such attention.

Though, since then I’ve had these dream where I played out all of my fears and nightmares. In it there seemed to be two aspects to it….

I can’t help but think of this recurring motif that seemed to live on throughout the night regarding old fashioned looks and apparel. Going from one scene of old school idyllic decor and then the more apparent in the form of pseudo-punk rebellion.

Just that fucking interaction really went into a wild direction where that guy where we finally spoke openly in the bathroom. He commented on how I really brought out my own destruction or downfall that night. He may have thanked me for doing it for his benefit, falling into his mind traps. It wasn’t good by one bit. He just started to mock me and how I couldn’t even close the door—and then I responded back by saying if they weren’t so cheap to not afford a proper bar to lock the thing. Then it wouldn’t be the case.

He continued with how disgusting my taking a shit was and I just shot back at him saying how much he loved it. Repeating myself.

After not helping but overhear how I was a bit boring or whatever, I returned.

Asking me what I was doing in the bathroom so long I just naturally talked about how I was finger banging the bartender. Then I said it again, emphasizing how much he loved it. Though they were just the last shots of heavy ammunition pointlessly used to defend whatever I had left of myself. Or say I may have felt.

It was funny, ‘cause the vibe of the bar totally lived up to the way in which it was posing itself as. The sleazy rocker bar where the bartender will attempt to steal your girlfriend.

I imagine again:

"You have the vibe of a rocker girl. The short hair and rubber jackets posing as leather."

"How do you feel right about now?"

"Umm… I’m alright…. How about you?"

"I’m feeling… interesting. I’m really sensitive to my surroundings—like hyper sensitive so I feel this great feeling of animosity or something like that but it’s filled with this real complex feeling inside. But all-in-all it feels good. I appreciate because it’s such a particularly unique feeling I’m quite glad I’m experiencing it."

That was an interesting moment…. I don’t know how I was gonna end up on this one. Though we rationalize our lack of income with the telling of programs none have actually used nor seen how useless they are.

ENDNOTES: ACCOMPANYING BACKGROUND TUNE (ABT): "Mellow My Mind" by Neil Young

CHARLIE’S COLUMNS

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I Used to Call Radio Stations and Request the Same Song Every Day

At fifteen, I was a goddamn weirdo. I look back on my fifteen-year-old self not with nostalgia or fondness, but with befuddlement as to how in the every-living hell I had any friends.

Weirdness came to me naturally. Sometimes they came out of big ideas. One of these ideas came to me when listening to the radio and hearing the song “Honestly.” It’s a song by Cartel. They were one of those “next big thing” bands. I thought they’d explode considering they were a pop-punk, awkward, ragtag group of kids who seemed cool. Then they reshot the video to “Honestly” where they wore better clothes and looked serious, and then they did the “Band in a Bubble” bullshit and were eaten by whatever big label snatched them up, and now they toil in one-hit-wonderdom. The point is, this song was their shining trophy and I couldn’t get enough of it, so when I heard it on a mainstream, top 40 radio station for the first time, I freaked out. Finally, a song I liked was getting the recognition it deserved. Most people don’t like when “their” bands or “their” music gets onto mainstream radio, but I love it. I’ve had difficulties relating to people all of my life, so when other people were sticking their noses in the air and shunning bands for going mainstream, bands they would’ve smeared mildew into their eyes for, I was jumping up and down in euphoria because it meant having more in common with people around me.

It sparked the question of how songs from bands end up on the radio, which I promptly forgot until I heard My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade,” on a top 40 radio station and had the same reaction to that as to “Honestly.” Again, the idea of requesting a song so much that the DJs gave in and played it was such a wild idea to me. In a sense, it meant I had a certain power over them, an influence.

I still felt MCR were an eternally underrated band. It wasn’t enough that one of their songs was finally recognized by the mass public - all of them needed to be appreciated. So one day, after “Famous Last Words” was released by the band as a single, I called 103.5 KISS FM.

"One-oh-three-five kiss fm."
"Hi, I’d like to request a song."
"Okay."
"Famous Last Words by My Chemical Romance."
"Alright, I’ll see what we can do."

Hung up. Waited next to the clock radio. Nothing. So I called the next day. And the next day. I must have called once every night for over a month. It became my own personal crusade, except my stubbornness and frustration morphed my goal from one of dedication to one of science, to record the means and hypothesize if the end I desired would come. In short, I turned it into an experiment:

Problem: A song I like is not played on top 40 radio.

Question: If I call every day for an extended period of time, will the radio station play the song?

Hypothesis: If I call every day for an extended period of time, the radio station will play the song out of my demand and out of their own sheer annoyance at my existence.

Variables: The amount of other people who may or may not be requesting the song. If there are a lot, the song will be played. If there are not many, the odds of it played are considerably lower.

How was my data looking? Not good. I called every day, and every day I got the same response until one day when I called, the person on the other end said in a sad, apologetic voice, “Ah no! We actually just played it! You must have missed it,” meaning they were sick of my shit.

Conclusion: If you call a radio station every day requesting a song from a mostly non-top 40-friendly band, the radio station will probably not play it on air.

This is where I talk about how I learned my lesson and never did it again, but that’s a lie because I never learn from my mistakes the first time. I waited a couple of months. Then I called the radio station every day. The song “Teenagers” had been making the rounds on Fuse and MTV, and I knew that one would be a sure thing on KISS FM. I can’t say I regret wasting my time on it, because I “wasted” possibly a collective half hour of my life over those weeks calling in, saying, “I want ‘song’ played,” and hanging up. As for those poor DJs and phone workers, maybe they were impressed by my persistence. They at least had something to talk about for half a minute before devising a plan to block my number.

LISA’S COLUMNS

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Untitled

You see there was this guy right. And he… well he just had a way of doing things. He didn’t do it right but his effort was endearing and despite thinking intentions are worth less than action, this guy made you reconsider. For example, his songwriting, it was terrible he barely could strum a chord and he always sang higher than he should. But you’d still buy the ticket to the show because there was something about his genuine effort, the honesty in it… it made the girls sob. And you hoped it gets better with age.

Well he grew up some and started to doubt himself because I think he started to figure it out, that folks didn’t care for his singing or essays or jokes or anything he taught he was. They got their own stories to be a part of. What was intention without action? What was action without intention. He slowed down to catch his breathe, inhale the present, then resumed a more casual pace.

Now I can’t tell if he’s truly dead or absolutely alive. He stopped paying the bills because legal tender is just an idea on fancy paper says him. I miss the old guy. He says it’s with intention but it smells suspect. It looks more convenient. It’s like easier not to try. He asks why move faster if you don’t need to go anywhere. You can’t get anywhere. You see it was a fool’s idealism that passed, leaving this fool with little to walk with. We all regret laughing; regret educating him; teaching him the truth.

I bet my life, if it was otherwise, if he never stopped. He’d been the President or something.

JOE’S COLUMNS

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Dickhead-itor

Well, I’ve had my first ordeal with a dickhead editor. Don’t worry, you’ll probably enjoy this, even if you’re laughing at me. Let me first get out of the way, I don’t plan on being a famous writer. That’d be nice but I’m nowhere near good enough. I’ve got a lot of other things going on in my life and I think I’ll focus more on those for right now anyway. I won’t stop writing though, mainly because I don’t think I can now that I’ve found it. So anyway, I’ve been submitting some of my stories to some magazines just for the hell of it. I usually don’t ever hear back or if I do it’s just a polite “fuck off”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I mean at least they took the time to be polite. Anyway, I finally heard back from an online magazine that I really thought would have been the last one I’d hear back from out of all my submissions. He was nice in the email and I was pretty excited as I made my way through the first couple paragraphs of his email. Then I got to the part where he said he trimmed about 900 words from my story that was originally only 1400. Now, I’m not so naïve that I just couldn’t believe that an editor edited my story. He’s just doing his job, making sure it’s what the readers want. So I read the version he sent back to me and it wasn’t even the same fucking story. The ending was gone, which was a giant part of the story as the character was making his first step forward in his own life after being held back by traumatic events and that whole factor of progression in the character’s life was totally gone.

I don’t know how or why most people write about anything, but the way I do it is usually from an experience or observation I’ve had in my own life or of someone close to me. I’ll take that idea and turn it into a story with a similar character to myself or whoever it’s based on and add certain aspects to their life, the setting, the circumstances as to why they’re in the position they’re in and that’s how I do it, it’s nothing groundbreaking. So, when I read the version that had totally been changed I was a little put-out. I understand I probably don’t have the ability to determine what’s good and what’s not but the story was shit after he edited it. It didn’t even make fucking sense. Now, like I said, I don’t plan on becoming some famous writer, so all I have is the process and the meaning I put into each story I write, for whatever reason that may be. I’m not trying to be all “I’m an artist, you can’t tell me how to create” but what I write matters to me and I wrote it the way I did for a reason. I emailed the guy back and politely said that I would prefer it remain unpublished than published the way it was edited. I thanked him for the opportunity and wished him well and I assumed that would be the end of it. I knew he didn’t mean any harm by it. He was the editor and founder of the magazine so I understood. Then he emailed me back.

He proceeded to tell me, in a completely unnecessary follow up email, that there was some “great” writing there, but that they often make liberal edits and the passages he cut were “hackneyed, cliche-ridden, nauseatingly sentimental cloying dog shit, and only the worst and lowest cachet of publications will accept it.” Then he told me I should think it over.

…So, I was a little fucking confused as to where exactly he stood. Again, let me reiterate that I’m not a sensitive little boy, but still, why the redundantly repetitive email? I said “No, thanks”, that should be the end of it right? I mean especially when I was “only the second out of 250+ contributors to decline publication: the first was an 81 year-old writer who has NEVER been published in a serious journal or in print.”

So, what I’ve gathered from this dude is that he wants his online magazine to be taken seriously but not to do too much work in the way of editing 250+ submissions. What he really wants to do is to take someone else’s story that’s just O.K. and hack the shit out of it so that it makes sense to him, to which I said: “Well then it sounds like I’ve got work to do and you’ve got plenty of options, so we should both be fine. Thanks again for the opportunity and good luck to you and your publication.”

Obviously, that’s not what I wanted to say. I’ll share with you what I wanted to say now: “Write your own fucking story, it’ll save you time and you obviously know what you’re looking for. Maybe being an asshole works because you have your own magazine in New York and you’re an independent editor with real opinions (self-involved hipster voice). After you change someone’s story that drastically, what’s the fucking point of it even being theirs? The answer: There isn’t. Happy editing asshole.

Sincerely,
-Drake Tillman.

P.S. An 81 year old man would rather die without being published in a ‘serious journal or print’ than to be published in your magazine, maybe YOU should think it over.”

DRAKE’S COLUMNS

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Garbage can stomping and childhood guilt

image

I’m sure my dad used to think "he’s just lashing out. How can you blame him?" 

His condolences for me would never be made discernible, but I knew they were there. What trickled down to me was disappointment though. He knew it was his greatest weapon against my hellion tendencies.

It worked in fading potency.

I would have the lump in my throat. That sick-with-myself feeling, as if I’d just accidentally killed the family cat, but it would pass. Soon enough I would be looking for something else to destroy.

The sound of grinding axes would draw me towards kids who were like I was… joyfully unaware of their own angst. We thought we were just having fun, vandalizing the community and smoking cigarettes in the trail. Little did we know the common aspects of our lives were infact the seeds of these hungry devils that clawed away inside of us.

Later in life, I presume we were all made painfully aware of it at one point or another. For me it was the first time I fell in love with a girl. For the others… Well, I don’t know about them. We’ve long since departed. I often wonder which of these track-armed junkies outside the train station is my long-lost childhood friend.

I somehow did ok. I think I diagnosed myself early enough to keep from sinking below the point where I could no longer swim back to the light. I still feel myself going under at times though. I kick my feet until my head resurfaces and I breath, so happy with myself. Happy enough to complacently allow my head to sink right back under.

As for my dad, well he did the best he could. He was the best father a kid could ask for. He did everything right, but I was beyond his reach. My compass was locked on magnetic zero and I would have to figure it out on my own.

ENDNOTES: You know what’s a fuckin’ hot trend this summer? Ramblin’ motherfucker! It is for me anyways. I just want to wander around on foot. I’m not talking about a hike up the local mountain, or a leisurely stroll to the 7-11 for slurpees and sour keys.. I’m talking full-day-long walks (possibly some overnighters). Maybe I’ll come back with some stories to tell. Stay tuned for that folks, and for more great stories from The I.C. family.

SZARY’S COLUMNS

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Post Interview Neurosis (PINed)

So I think I would characterize the interview as ‘sub-par but salvageable.’ Mainly this has to do with the fact that I had prepared for it from the wrong angle—enthusiastically expressing this strong editorial side. Or high ambitions in regards to the position. Though I did express myself as very ambitious but perhaps too ambitious. Or just she could feel the anxiety running through my veins and bursting as an intense energy. It was a bizarre interview experience, I felt very nervous upon coming into the room. It was bizarre.

"Slightly subpar but still salvageable." Perhaps part of that is just naive bullshit sparking from it’s reflection mistaken for a shiny glass eye of hope. With a slight nugget of fools gold mixed around inside there.

LIST OF IDEAS TO SALVAGE IT:
-Basically be blunt and e-mail her, saying that I know the interview may have felt off or the wrong fit. But I truly believe that I can be of immense value to you as an administrative assistant (an act of desperation—in a way).

-Call up the recruiter, get her to be on my side and have her fight for me. In the decision making process, emphasize how I was less aware of how much more of an administrative role the job would entail.

I don’t think I should even mention, suggest nor even allude to any personal dysfunction. I can get comfortable really well.

I want to tread that fine line between being dogged to just hardly being off-putting.

I think I’ve watched too many melodramatic TV shows about young adults. As well too many cynical government/espionage-related thrillers where you don’t know who the good guys or bad guys are….

CHARLIE’S COLUMNS

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Reading Festival 2012

2012 was a huge year for me. I had my first serious boyfriend, my first taste of freedom, my last year of education, not to mention the fact that my love for Foo Fighters was at its most intense. Imagine my delight as one of my friends, just days after my 17th birthday, announces she is selling her Reading ticket. I scraped together £200 in small change and practically threw it at her, snatching the pass for what was to be the best weekend of my life; inevitable really, given that the mighty Foos would be headlining the last day.


I was soon reminded that while it was good and well to be excited for the weekend ahead of me, I did not have any means of transport, or a tent; and I had spent the last of my wages on the ticket itself. I was forced to ask myself a serious question: what would Grohl do? Later that day, I approached my boss at my part-time Domino’s job and flashed him the cheesy grin I had picked up for the dozens of Taylor Hawkins interviews I’d watched (God, the unspeakable things I’d do to that man). Credit to Shabaz, he did break almost every rule in the manager’s handbook when he gave me my wages in advance, most of which I hadn’t even worked for yet!

I’ll never forget the look on my best friend’s face when I appeared at her door, empty handed, the morning we were due to leave:
“Morning camper, is there any room in your car for a little one?”
“I suppose so, where are your bags?”
“I don’t have any… now come on, we need to hit the road.”

That evening, in front of our shitty campfire, I drew battle plans. I’d made it here, I only had to last 4 days until I saw Foo Fighters in the flesh; there was no way I was flaking out before that. All I had on me was the clothes on my back, £53 in my back pocket, a bottle of Glen’s vodka, and a bottle of blackcurrant squash I’d ‘borrowed’ from my Grandma’s pantry. I decided I had to prioritise:
1) Alcohol.
2) Food.
3) Somewhere to sleep.
It was the early hours of the morning; I found myself in the 24 hour Tesco down the road from our camp, exhausted and starving. First on the list was booze, and I was delighted to spot crates of Stella and Strongbow at £12 each. I staggered back to camp with 2 crates of each, and lovingly placed the bottle of squash on top: Snakebite & Black, anyone? My next mission was going to be a greater challenge; I had £5 left to buy enough food for 4 days. In hindsight, I probably didn’t invest my money as wisely as I could have, and my friends howled with laughter as I presented my 40 packets of crisps and 60 bourbon biscuits. In fact, they found my hardcore style of camping so pitiful that they invited me to sleep in the porch of their tent. I curled up in the corner, head resting on a packet of Ready Salted crisps.

The next few days are hard to recall; I drowned them out with dangerous amounts of alcohol and laughing gas (stolen from a friend). Finally Sunday arrived, and even in my half-dead state I was ecstatic. After a delicious breakfast of vodka dregs and Bourbons, I rounded up my smelly friends and stumbled to the arena. I hadn’t seen much of the music that weekend, half because I wasn’t entirely sure who was playing, half because I was far too drunk to leave the porch of the tent. That day, however, we had an 8 hour wait before Foo Fighters headlined. First up was Bullet for my Valentine, who absolutely smashed it. I did however; regret my choice of footwear as I lost both of my pink converse within the first 5 minutes of our lengthy day. Next up were Kaiser Chiefs, and once again they killed the set, and by the end I was running on empty. It had been a long weekend, I almost definitely had scurvy, and if I’m honest I wasn’t entirely confident that I knew my own name at that point. It was not time yet though, we still had the hour long set by the Black Keys to endure before the Gods took the stage. They were shocking, the worst band I have ever seen live (and I’ve seen some shockers). There is a picture of me and my friends, on the Reading website, while the Black Keys are performing. If you look dead in the centre, you can see my head above the crowd, crying hysterically from exhaustion and ear-rape; this picture tells you everything you need to know about this experience.

Finally the time arrives. The moment I hear the earth shattering notes from Dave’s baby-blue beauty of a guitar and the thump of the Taylor Hawkins’ drums, I’m in pieces. I sink to my knees as a mosh-pit forms around me, and a giant of a man has to carry me out of the circle of violence. He asks me if I’m okay, and I sob something largely incoherent, but the gist is that I love them. He nods understandingly and lets me get on with it. 3 hours of tears, crowd surfing and hugging strangers that clearly admire my dedication as I stand strong in bare feet and crusty jeans, it’s all over. I continue to cry after the show, all night long and the entire duration of the car journey home the next day. I’ve accepted that I will never have an experience like that again, and that nothing will ever compare to the moment Dave played the opening notes to my favourite song, ‘These Days’, and uttered the words that still bring tears to my eyes:
“This is for Krist, and this is for Kurt.”

BETHANY’S COLUMNS

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The Trouble With Condoms

I will try to keep this as clean as possible; this is the only time I will even mention the male reproductive organ. Today I would actually like to tell a few tales about experiences I have had involving contraceptives and the triumph of the human spirit. It is remarkable how something as simple as the practice of safe sex can contribute to the awkwardness of new relationships, not that any help was even needed.

The first tale begins at a bar: a hippy bar. It is a very clean and tasteful place that hosts a different live band every night of the week except Sunday. My former roommate and I had went to this establishment one Wednesday evening so that he could meet a guy he was crushing on. My roommate, who we will now call Jay, did not want to meet the guy alone. Jay also had his cousin meet us there. She was a nice enough gal, but not really my type. Fast-forward.

Many drinks and groping sessions later (from both would-be couples) Jay gives the look. Well, it wasn’t THE look but I took it as so and I left with the cousin. She only lived a block away but it was now after midnight and I was too drunk to drive the fifteen miles to my house; shacking with her for the night just seemed like the best possible option. I pulled in to the first store I saw to procure some condoms. I didn’t even notice the store was closed and all the lights were off until I put the car in park. There was another convenience store two blocks away so I thought I would try my luck there.

This store was always open. It was one of those stores in the ghetto that stays open all night to service fiends and walkers. The store was bustling with illegal activity as usual and I wobble in to notice a lovely ebony lady working the counter. I made up my mind to flirt with her even though I had someone in the car that was good to go. I find the condoms and I was feeling extra cocky so I grabbed the XXL’s, wobble up and slap them on the counter, and look at her like “sup?”. Her eyes said “This white boy is lost” but her mouth said “Is that all you need?” I wasted no time and almost yelling I replied “Hell, I hope that’s all I need!” The entire store was in stitches as I walked out, laughing as well. For the next hour I had to pretend I was Jay’s gay friend so the cousin’s mother would allow me to stay the night. Awkward. She also had a boyfriend I that I learned of later.

The next tale takes place in an even worse neighborhood. I have a childhood acquaintance that lives in one of the housing projects in our town. She lives in the front row which isn’t too terribly bad, but the city police shot and killed a man in that neighborhood on two different occasions last year. I didn’t have any business there except vengeance.

The demise of my marriage was a prelude to the demise of another. My wife’s best friend was single again and they were at odds for a different irrelevant reason. We were all friends from high school and I had always wanted to give her a go: a legit one. She (Tee) found herself living with my other friend in the projects. I took advantage of the situation to get Tee finally, and also to spite my ex-wife.

First date went well so she invited me in. I didn’t mind staying. I already knew a few of the neighbors and as long as you be cool and act like you aren’t afraid no one will bother you. Things start to heat up and get to the last chance moment when Tee asks if I have a condom. Of course I do. It is in my car. Outside. It is very hard to look “hard”, when you are in fact, “hard”. I rush back in with no further problems.

The next time I go to see her I get smart and bring the condom with me. I don’t like to put them in my wallet so I just had it loose in my pocket. It’s still early and everyone in the apartment is awake and I go to pull my smokes out and the condom comes flying out with them. It skids across the floor and I hurry and stomp on it to hide it. No one said anything but I know they saw. I still got to use it that night. I still had to go outside and get another one for round two though. The same thing happens the next time while sitting beside Tee. I pull my smokes out and the condom falls out on my lap. This time Tee says “Is that a condom? Think you’re getting lucky tonight?”

“Maybe”.

Nothing stands in the way of love more than condoms.

JAMES’S COLUMNS

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Systematic Alienation Disorder (SAD)

I have vague memories from my youth in how I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The word ‘disorder’ seems to have strong connotations that I can’t help but associate with it being with making one feel as though there is something wrong them. just something about that word which seems to have this potential of making one feel shamed or an outcast from those who don’t have this ‘disorder.’

It’s really quite an intriguing thing to explore as how the names of ‘mental illness’ ’ (illness being another word that can be so disconcerting and callous for those suffering from their issues) can really have this effect of making one feel more helpless from what they are dealing with; to associating their identity with these words a room full of men and women considered the highest specialists among professionals in their field (for example how the DSM/”encyclopedia of mental illness’” was created).

I remember feeling slightly dissociated from the classmates I knew—which is rather difficult and painful when you’re just a child who yearns to make connections with others. Where in such a classroom a bond with this group of fellow kids, where the only things you may to seem have some in common is that you’ve been randomly put in this classroom by some perplexing system of randomness.

Hence why I always found the first day of school to be a very difficult day. As it always seemed like I was dealt a new set of somewhat familiar cards. With which I had to suddenly work with—again—in this new social environment. Where after having spent a large amount of time being able to work and developing a comfort level and bond with those you had seemingly nothing in common.

Something which developed throughout the school year with a class you were stuck with for the entire day. You shared laughs together. You might have even done awful things together to an awkward teacher nobody seemed to like—or towards social outcasts or class clowns. I remember in my circumstances there was something deemed ‘wrong’ with me from the adults in charge with the aid of a specialist or two.

At first, it especially seemed to be associated from the way I spoke. I remember there would be a moment in some—if not most days of the week—where I would have to get up in the middle of class by myself (or accompanied) to go to these “Speech” classes. A place that I mostly remember as having been quite intrinsically unsettling—regardless of how friendly the speech therapists were.

I found being in these classes to be rather unnerving and sometimes even scary. That feeling of being systematically taken away for having done something wrong for reasons I never quite understood so well. Like most children, I wasn’t able to be so self-reflective and able to think about it on these terms during that time. It was just an experience I believe my internal defenses coped by making it just feel uncomfortable.

Having never really felt as though the reasons for being there were explained well enough to me, I don’t recall feeling particularly safe and comfortable in this change of environment. Since the experience felt as though I’d suddenly been transported to a rather bizarre and scary place. Placed in a room with a handful of kids that made me feel very uncomfortable and with whom I couldn’t relate to.

I didn’t know their issues were but I knew that I didn’t want to get to know them. I remember they all looked and acted different than my usual classmates who seemed ‘normal.’ I felt that there was just this odd demeanor to them. Where looking back on it (in terms of how I felt or what I possibly associated them with) I can best describe them as reminiscent to being in a small room with a handful of strange circus freaks who were my age.

With a sense of self still very far from being developed, I believe that this further stirred up various internal senses of confusion. That developed a peculiar contradiction of how I looked at myself. Perhaps it reinforced a personal sense of ‘otherness’ from the mainstream crowd, who I desperately wanted to be apart of. I believe that these labels of misbehavior I was given and the systematized means to ‘correct’ these behavioral symptoms only further added to this shamed sense of being different.

I believe that such experiences where I was taken away from the ‘normal’ students in the middle of class may further reinforced the anxiety and alienation; which may have actually made “speech” or “learning disorder” issues worse. Since one of the more major needs for the human soul experience joy and connectedness to be apart of a group of people with whom you share commonalities.

Nevertheless, this seemed to develop a peculiar feeling pattern I experienced throughout grade school up until my first year of High School. All of which associated from being diagnosed with ‘learning disabilities’ or ‘speech issues.’
Perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a bizarre experience of growing up which I can’t help but feel was partially tainted due to these bizarre scrapings of my soul coupled with an odd molding of my spiritual spine.

Despite being most happy with the person I am today, thanks to the self-awareness I’ve developed (and am still constantly trying to expand) and the many influences that have helped shape me. Maybe it would’ve been less painful—if I wasn’t treated with the assistance a depersonalized diagnostic label back up by generalized behavioral traits. That ended up whisking me away without much understanding as to why I was being taken to these odd places.

It might have been less painful and more helpful if I was just gently told I was ‘simply a little different’ as a starting point. Perhaps the ‘treatment’ would have been a bit easier on the child I was.

ENDNOTES: Accompanying Background Tune (ABTs):
"I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times" by The Beach Boys

CHARLIE’S COLUMNS

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"Full Circle"

I tried to give him back the ring. He was standing in the back yard, and I’d already finished packing, but we were still too angry to be in the same room. So, from the balcony of the master bedroom, I tossed him my set of keys. He reached to catch them, fumbled, and resisted bending down to retrieve them from the dirt patch lawn. “You don’t have to be such a bitch about this.”

“I’m not trying to be. Really.” I worked the ring off my finger and made it two steps down before he stopped me.

“Keep it. I don’t want it. It’s useless to me.”

I opened my mouth to beg him to take it, to take it back, to erase our half-intentions, but he’d already turned his back and was in his truck before I could sputter any semblance of a plea.

I put the ring back on my finger, put on my coat, and left the front door open behind me. Anything of value in that house was leaving with me, anyway.

When the October sunshine caught my diamond on my ride across town, I remembered the sick way he’d boasted about how much he’d paid. How he’d finally found something as rare and expensive as my violin. And I’d had to smile and accept the gift, ignoring every impulse to run, to remind him that I’m not a girl for shiny, delicate things.

At the next stoplight, I put the ring in my pocket, vowing to sell it to the highest bidder as soon as I could.

I moved my silver band from my right hand back to its original place – where commitments never should have been made.

***

In college, I worked in an office with a girl who lived in my building. We became friends later, but at the time, we were just coworkers. One day, as we were passing another eight hours when the phones wouldn’t ring and we had nothing to do but regale each other with anecdotes and highlight random papers to look like we were earning our keep, she blurted out, “Oh my god, are you engaged?”

“God, no. Why would you ask that? We’re so young!”

“Your ring.”

“Oh, no. My mom got me this when I was nine. Been wearing it ever since. I guess it was made by some local artist and she found it at a craft fair? Pretty cool, actually, to have a one-off. And, since this is the finger it fit, this is where I wear it.”

“Wow. You’re brave. I was taught that you never, ever wear a ring on your ring finger. Otherwise you’ll never get married. That’s the finger you leave open.”

“I’ve never heard that before.”

“Well, you’d better move that ring, or you’ll never get married.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works.”

***

I said yes to the fourth proposal to come along. And it wasn’t until that night that I finally moved my silver ring to another finger. Against my mother’s protestations, and against my own better judgment. I didn’t want to say yes, and the fact that he only wanted to give me a bauble more precious than the simplicity I embodied should have given me greater pause.

Maybe I’d listened to my friend more closely than I realized.

Maybe I was tired of saying no.

I don’t know.

I do know that now, ten years later, my friend whose left hand remained superstitiously empty is happily married.

And I’ve since moved my mother’s ring to my right hand again. To flaunt the freedom that comes with a fully-nude left. The ring’s seam has split as it’s grown with me over the past twenty-four years. And when I think I may be making the wrong decision, I flex my hand and the seam pinches my finger, reassuring me that I have a solid base from which to work this through.

That, no matter what, I’ll always be able to walk away.

And, if it gets really bad, I can sell my past for parts.

KATE’S COLUMNS

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December’s Grey Remains

This winter never really left in the winter time, as it’s supposed to. I thought to myself in high enough spirits to read a book for more than just a few minutes before my short attention span got the best of me—as it always does on my commute to and from home.

Even when I used my dark reflection on the subway mirror to take a habitual look at myself, I felt inclined to straighten out my winter hat so it would look firm in it’s fashionable covering of my head. It’s funny when you’ve lost the conscious will towards specifically impressing someone. Perhaps we just look nice for ourselves and that person’s reaction is what we’re searching for.

Among the countless personas that linger in the city. It seems like the utterance of a name you then see pass by in the form of a stranger will still bring you back to old ghosts from the past. Hearing that name Francesca, took me back to Chicago.

Funny how there are just those people who had an intense space in your life for a brief moment but still. To be so stoned soul and stoic which brought me into an odd stage setting for the beheading of some sort of remote negotiations.

There is a funny sense through the air of enjoyable eavesdropping on a Friday night ritual from people who take going out to get wasted so seriously.

Talking about these mundane details about themselves that are spoken in a tone as though they mattered after tomorrow. Though tomorrow never knows as the sly craft of wanton desire dropped across the plains towards possibility’s worry conceited with concern’s relief in expunging the finite details of the never ending cycle of fashion’s refineries.

ENDNOTES: Soundtrack >  "Grey December" by Chet Baker 

CHARLIE’S COLUMNS

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Rear Window

The woman down the street has been having an affair for a little over a year and I keep up with it as if it’s crucial to me somehow. I don’t make it a habit to spy on my neighbors, and not because I’m in any way delicate about their privacy, but mostly because none of them are very interesting. None of them are like the woman down the street. Her affair is meticulous and like clockwork, and since I work early hours and have put in a full day and am done at work by the time people are taking their lunch breaks, I’ve been able to keep tabs on the thing thus far.

I refer to her suitors only by the make and model of their cars because names are insignificant to me in this scenario. Her husband is a tall man, looks to be in his early 30s and is very loud and angry. He drives a dark colored Toyota Tundra. I find him entirely obnoxious and initially I was disgusted by her choice to cheat on her husband, but after observing him for only a few days I came to the conclusion it was really the only way she could stay sane day to day without jumping off the nearest bridge. Sure, she could just leave him but they have a little girl together. She’s really very cute. Sometimes I see her running around the house with a tiny dog. She will run too fast while trying to look behind her to keep eye contact with it and she’ll fall over. The dog will jump on her chest and lick her face and she’ll laugh and laugh. It’s a very sweet laugh and to ruin it with sadness would be a terrible injustice.

The other guy drives a gold Mercury Cougar. He’s not as tall as her husband, but he’s got a nice bird-like set of legs. He looks younger than her husband, maybe around 25. He dresses very well, and not in the sense that he’s got a lot of money, but more like he puts some type of consideration into his appearance. He seems kind of quiet. Despite carrying on a relationship with this woman for over a year, he still checks himself over in the reflection of the car before going up to the house. He is always wringing out his hands and swaying back and forth while waiting for her to come to the door. However, he isn’t entirely introverted. He parks his car right in front of the house which I consider to be a boldness I admire.

The husband leaves for work early, around 4am. He and I often cross paths when I leave for work at the intersection at the end of the road. He has almost hit me more times than I can count. Their house is located on a hairpin turn and instead of easing into the turn he opts to gun it and screech tire. Once he even went as far as going into the opposite lane of traffic just to get in front of me. He flipped me off and then laughed. How someone is already that angry at 4am escapes me. I usually get back to my apartment around 1pm, and Mercury Cougar is often times already parked outside the house down the street. I haven’t been able to figure out what he does for a living. He has some type of college decal on the back window of his car, so I’m assuming he’s still in school.

I make coffee and sit by the window a lot. There’s a ton of trees around my apartment building which means there’s a lot of birds. I like watching and photographing them, and in doing so I stumbled on the affair happening down the street. At first I found the whole ordeal upsetting, but as I watched each guy in this woman’s life and compared and contrasted them, I could see her way of thinking. Toyota Tundra came home late almost always. He refused to use the stairs when walking into the house and often times would trample the garden she and her daughter worked and played in during the day. His voice carried at night in the summer when the windows were open, and judging by the things I’ve overheard, she wasn’t often appreciated. He never hit her but he also never loved her. I assume the child had something to do with why they were even together in the first place.

In comparison, Mercury Cougar was every bit the complete opposite of her husband. He seemed quite softer, like a light rain. She laughed with him and she danced with him and sometimes in the afternoons you can hear music coming from inside the house. I often find myself rooting for him because he treated her like glass. He’d delicately help her into the car every single time. That’s not to say she couldn’t do so herself without assistance and he wasn’t in any way undermining her, but he did so because he clearly loved her. She was precious to him. From the first time I saw him scale the stairs to knock on the door before walking her back out to the car, I knew what they had was special despite the circumstances. Her husband would mash on the horn over and over until she came out of the house. Mercury Cougar went to the door. He met her halfway all of the time. It didn’t matter if it was raining or snowing or the end of the world was going on, he met her halfway. And I always end up thinking of them in dull spots throughout the day. I hope they appreciate each other because there isn’t enough love like that around anymore. In fact, there isn’t enough love around at all anymore.

LUCY’S COLUMNS

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Skills Listed on Resume: “Occasional Homewrecker”

Of course I end up writing poetry on the train. 

When I was originally planning on simply going over notes for my interview. But these two guys that I’m sitting near just made me so distracted. It was quite annoying indeed. I can’t help but be distracted by it. I feel like the last dream put me in one of these situations of feeling entrapped. 

I have to calm down and simply be cool. Be straight direct and terse with my responses. 

I think I am being noticed again for continuing to write like this on my phone, but finally this guy is gone. A little silence on the subway will be nice. It’s so interesting how these things turn out. 

I think the whole thing with that girl I was talking to so intensely online may have turned out to be a situation where she may have ended up having a boyfriend who found out about my talks. Not saying a word. It always kind of felt like she was hiding something and maybe that’s what it is. 

I feel like a good number of women I’ve gotten involved with were already with someone. I remember the worst one was in college when the boyfriend from back home threatened to break my dick off and throw it in the woods. That was amusing.

Maybe it’s this image I get projected onto me which gives them space to project something they really want from their boyfriend or something that is missing in their current relationships. I am good looking. Though perhaps I’m slightly shy and a tiny bit withdrawn in my demeanor. I think that’s one reason why I may attract some sort of women. The ones who are just as neurotic as I am—if anything. 

It’d be an interesting thing to ponder.

CHARLIE’S COLUMNS

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The Day I Met Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

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The day I met Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (famed astrophysicist) was just like any other March Thursday in New York- the time of year when the only subject for polite conversation revolves around desperate longings for springtime. I woke up late and despaired about that like I always do. I had promised myself I would go running but I didn’t. You know, typical.

I have to preface this story with saying that I’m a Dr. Tyson fan- but not in the regular way- in a borderline creepy way.

In the 6 months prior to this extraordinary event- I wrote a play about the good doctor entitled “Molly Murphy and Neil deGrasse Tyson On Our Last Day On Earth" I also portrayed him in said play. The basic plot being that "Molly Murphy" (a fictional version of myself, not played by me) is on a journey to meet her long time hero. They meet- he’s not what she expected- blahblahblah- Tale as old as time.

We performed the show in New York in February. Some people came to see it- we all drank a lot. I think one or two people liked it. Good times had by all. I had written to Neil (let’s get familiar) hoping that he might attend but no response- I mean- I get it- the dude is busy.

SO, back to this late winter Thursday.

I was assistant directing a play at the Public Theater in New York. The show was about to start, I was sitting with my Director in the back of the audience with my big notepad ready to watch the 3 hour drama for the 11th time and take notes. I was telling her a story about fried chicken I think and from the corner of my eye I saw him.

There he was. Walking up the aisle, program in hand. There to see the show. Just like any other person. Just like it was no big deal. He had sunglasses on- the only subtle reminder of his fame. I stopped talking mid sentence. My brain was short circuiting. There he was. I couldn’t compute it.

Him.
The guy.
The dude whose writings I had poured over for months. The man I watched on Youtube incessantly. The man about whom I once wrote a note to myself saying “When performing try to chuckle like a goat the way he does”

I texted my friend who happened to be the playwright of the show at the Public, the person whose play Neil was there to see. The lights went down. The first act started. I took notes. I watched him watch the play. The back of his head looked tired- I thought. My mind raced- What am I going to do? Should I talk to him? Surely not, right? He’s just out with his wife. He wants to be left alone right? Should I tell him about the play I had written about him? Will I look insane? Of course I will, but is it worth it?! The stakes were so high. I decided to leave him be, I would meet him some other day in better conditions. Hopefully on a day I had brushed my hair.

Intermission. The lights came back up. My friend comes tearing through the audience yelling up the aisles “Molly!!! Where is he?!?! Let’s go find him!! Come now!” Keep in mind everyone in the audience is here to see this woman’s play. All 250 people are watching her every move. And here she is cackling, making a huge scene dragging me by the scuff of the neck through the aisles.

She climbs over people to his seat. She introduces herself, shakes his hand and says “Thanks for coming to my play but my assistant is a HUGE fan, a really HUGE fan and could you please take a picture with her?!” He nods solemnly, accepting his fate that EVEN HERE he’s going to be a celebrity, and I instantaneously leap over 10 seats and plop down next to him.

"I,uh, don’t know whose coat that is you’re sitting on" He says.

"Oh..well I guess it can be mine for now"

I just stare at him. No words will come. Nothing. I looked crazed. He just stared back. He looked so tired. My friend is trying to take our picture, but everyone else in the theatre is trying to schmooze with her. It is a huge embarrassing scene. I cannot think of a single word in the English language to say.

"Are you a writer?" He asks

"Oh- well- Sometimes I- on occasion-…..Sure"

That was all I got out. I yelling at myself but nothing more would escape my lips.

She finally snapped our picture. She sat down. They talked (with me between them). I stared and blinked a lot.

Finally the owner of the jacket came back and we had to leave. Dr. Tyson looked relieved. I continued to look insane. We ran back through the audience to our seats, my friend continued to cackle and point at me.

He had come because the playwright was doing a talk back after the show- turns out he was a fan of hers. He stayed after and he talked-back. It was adorable. And then he just as easy as he walked in, he walked out- into the New York night.

The saddest/funniest/best part is that he still has no idea that there is a play written about him. The crazed looking assistant with whom he was forced to snap a picture -that insane lady actually wrote a play in which Dr. Tyson is the main character. That is BY FAR my favorite part.

He may not know now-
But he will soon…
I’ll make a point to to write something down before attempting to speak to him again.
And I’ll brush my hair.
Meeting your hero is really fucking weird.

MOLLY’S COLUMNS

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