Thursday, December 21, 2006

On Writing

Many writers, such as Stephen King, advise that you should have a set time for writing--writing should be treated no differently than office work, with a time to punch in and a quota of pages for the day. And though there is certainly wisdom in that for many writers, for the creation of something from nothing takes a tremendous amount of discipline which often times can only be gained through a strict daily quota, the disadvantage for me at least is that the writing I do on such a schedule feels forced. It's the literary equivalent of pushing the square peg through the round hole.

So when I came across this piece by one of my favorite writers, M. John Harrison, a very naturalistic writer who is able to turn the details of the mundane and turn them into the surreal, the transcendent, or the disturbing, I felt relieved to see that one can be a successful writer while being guided by impulse rather than routine.

How I Write by M. John Harrison

Because I have no memory I’m forced to collect the things that interest me--landscapes, scenes out of other people’s lives, bits of overheard dialogue--in a notebook. I used to pride myself on using any notebook that came to hand, especially if it had a nice puppy or some flowers on the cover. But you end up like everyone else, using the Moleskines with the little squares despite the enduring shame.

Everything goes into the computer. It spends several years inside, like a character from Nova Swing, shifting location, attempting escape, undergoing recombination, transformation, cannibalism, verdigris, duplication, interrogation, prolapse. I rake through the files most days, looking for connections. Eventually even the gnarliest and most idiolectic bits and pieces give up what they know. Light, written in 2001, begins with a barely-modified note, including verbatim quotes, scribbled down in 1994 during an academic dinner in Leicester.

The notebook stage is the last time anything of mine sees paper until publication. I like to do lots of operations. Fountain pens and refurbished 1930 Underwood portables don’t cut it; digital management is the appropriate choice. Have you ever noticed how every male novelist you meet at a literary festival wears a linen jacket and is called Tim ? Tim prefers an antique Watermans, maybe his dad owned it. It keeps him pure and returns him to the sinewy prose of the giants who came before us all.

I don’t have any writing pattern. I hate being professional. I don’t write according to a schedule or an output plan; I don’t begin at the beginning and write to the end. Or rather: if I do any of those things I usually have to bin the results. Writing should be fun--absorbing, transporting, intense, whatever. It should ambush you. It should be up there with sex, drugs and irresponsible driving. It shouldn’t have anything to do with research or require a degree in finding out about lipstick colours in 1943. I can’t do it if I’m bored or depressed or feeling unconfident. Once it’s working, I can write anywhere--I’ve done stuff while hanging off an abseil rope on a sea cliff or a highrise building--but not under any conditions. If I’m sitting at my desk I hate to be cold, I hate anyone’s noise except my own. But I like working on a train.

I write to find out why I’m writing what I’m writing. I like to write from life, as in Climbers, but I like imaginative fiction too. Imagination is nonlinear, dynamical, not subject to reduction. I could never pitch an idea to Hollywood--if you can write it as a synoptic sentence why bother to write it as anything else ? Neither am I impressed by the myth of a prose transparent to some meaning which exists independent of it. However much of a record it pretends to be, what goes into my notebooks is already a fabrication. Good thing too.

Copyright Time Out 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

4:35 AM

A feeling that something was fundamentally wrong with this life had kept me awake. I had attempted to fall asleep, but ended up just lying in bed with my eyes closed and that restlessness in my heart. And so, unlike many of the past nights, I turned on a lamp at 4:30 in the morning, took a long shower, and decided to go out.

I drove down to Westwood and went to the only place that was open this late or this early, a mediocre chain deli that, in the emptiness of the streets, was lit like home.

Walking the block from my car to the deli, I could see my breath. The sky was still a deep black and the streets were still awash in the orange glow of streetlights, and the world was silent just for a while. This would be a good photograph, I thought to myself, a solitary figure in leather jacket, jeans, hunched in the cold, hands in pockets framed by the night and streetlights.

A tired, young waitress showed me to my table and asked if I wanted coffee. I smiled at her, both of us recognizing how tired we were, and held the look for a while. I said yes in that smokey morning voice, and within seconds, got my coffee.

There were about seven other customers in the deli. The four sitting behind me were young men who looked like they had been out clubbing, but were earnestly discussing the change of film and technology. A couple of booths further back, a lone man in his late forties with a shag of a hairstyle and a sweatshirt too young for him sat with an unassuming grin. I realized that it was the actor who played Cameron in Ferris Bueller's day off.

The man sitting in the booth next to me was in his late fifties, with a lean, haggard face full of grey stubble, wearing cheap glasses. He had a notepad that I caught a glimpse of, full of strange, hand drawn diagrams. The other customer also gave off that feeling of quiet madness, grey hair in a moptop, dingy t-shirt over sweats.

I ordered a meal that was too filling, and took me time between bites and reading a magazine that was two weeks outdated. And so I took it all in, the earnestness, the madmen, the insomniacs.

And I thought about you, though I don't know who you are. I may not have met you yet, and there you are, slumbering by yourself, or with someone else, our paths not having crossed yet. Or maybe I have met you already, neither of us realizing the full significance of the things we have said and the looks that we've shared. I thought about waking up next to you, both of us unable to sleep, our hearts restless not because there was fundamentally wrong with this life but because everything was right with it. And so we would go down to mediocre chain deli that, in the emptiness of the streets, was lit like home. We would walk down the early morning street, arm in arm, hunched over, leaning on each other, looking like the companion piece to "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" album cover. We would sit across from each other, smile, talk in our smokey morning voices.

By the time I finished my meal, the facade of the stores across the street had turned from the orange of streetlamps to the faded blue-white of the morning. I walked out, and saw my breath. This would be a good photograph, I thought to myself, the back of a solitary figure in leather jacket, jeans, hunched in the cold, hands in pockets framed by the grey morning light.

And I drove home, and now the day has fully broken. My heart is still restless, but I am calm for now. And I will sleep for a little bit, and wonder when our paths will cross.

"Driving so slow
Streets are empty as we go
Back over the canal
We've all had a long day and we're going home

We all got big tears in our sides
And the city salt doesn't help
But it sure cleans them out

In little coffee shops
And litte sidewalk cops
We're the only ones awake
We're the only ones that can't stop

Driving,so slow
Streets are empty as we go " -- Gemma Hayes, "4:35 AM"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Arc D'X

Let's call this an homage to Steve Erickson without reading too much more into this, shall we?

"If Etcher inherited both his father's brooding fatalism and kindness of heart, he resisted the lessons of life that teach one to be harder. In some ways Etcher taught himself to be softer. And in defiance of life's lessons that teach one to dim the light in oneself and fight the dark, Etcher intended to do neither. He hated the resignation that life insisted on." Steve Erickson, Arc D'X

And Jack says, what has kept me away from her is not a sense of awkwardness, but a sense of violation.

I will admit that I saw significance in the smallest of things, the direction of seagulls riding the thermals, or the confluence of a breeze and song playing distantly from a radio. I have sought significance in the smallest of things to fight against a rising nihilism. The intensity of my sight and of my gaze and of my heart, if given direction toward that nihilism, that void, would consume me. And so I set that intensity upon finding meaning where perhaps there is no meaning at all.

I have kept this silent from my friends, the import of Audrey's gaze on a random night. There is as much significance in her look as the breeze and the song, they would say, which is to say none at all. And knowing what they know of me, they would be secure in their certainty that they were right.

Had I only my own observations to rely upon, untrustworthy as they are, I would agree. But there was a precedent, another witness at another time, as binding to the heart as it was to reality.

Three years ago, during an unusually hot May Sunday, the heat arriving so quickly it struck Los Angeles into a stupor, there was a woman named Rose. Her eyes were as a warm brown as Audrey's were sea green. We had known each other for a year, became close friends. And after an afternoon at the Grove, we had retreated to my flat and its weak air conditioner.

We had lain facing each other, letting conversation slip away until there was just the hum of the refrigerator and the air conditioner, just looking at each other. As time passed and nothing more was said, the import of our mutual gaze became heavy and tangible. There was no significance to be had, no meaning to be found in any words that we had said previously. The only significance were her eyes and my eyes as reflections of everything unspoken. The night would end with tangled sheets and legs.

There would be later betrayals that would throw us apart and that would render whatever meaning we had created into nothing. Time would pass, and I would keep that nihilism at bay with the distractions of relationships that would have no meaning so that I would not spend my energy looking for one.

And then I met Audrey. She was nothing like Rose. Her eyes were sea green as Rose's were a warm brown. She was younger but at the same time was more mature. A friendship grew. I have no explanation as to why I had begun to seek meaning again, and yet I was. I had stumbled in the beginning, and it had begun to feel as if I were trying to prop a door open for the next three months.

On a cool winter's night, during a gathering of friends, I had decided to find out whether I should enter through the door or slam it shut. I had quietly broken her away from the the group, and awkwardly and sincerely expressed what I had been feeling. And had her words carried the only meaning, it would have ended there.

But yet, there is significance in silence and in the gaze, as precedent proves. After Audrey said that there was someone else in her heart, though she was disappointed that he did not show up, we stood facing each other, letting conversation slip away until there was just the din of the convesations of others, just looking at each other. As time passed and nothing more was said, the import of our mutual gaze became heavy and tangible. I had a shock of realization that Audrey's gaze was the same one as Rose's.

The night did not end in a tangle of sheets and legs. Instead, the next night, I received a message from Audrey requesting me to respect the relationship she had with someone who had made the minor betrayal of being absent last night, of attributing the night to inebriation. She had ended the message with what was meant to be a reassurance, that there was no awkwardness on her side.

I had responded by assuring her that I would respect her relationship, but through no fault of her own, I would feel awkward. To feel how I did, to know that gaze, it was impossible for me not to, although this latter remain unwritten. This was a farewell.

Afterwards, I realized that awkward was an inapt term. The mutuality of that gaze, the reflection of each other's desire, was heavy and tangible. It was not the breeze and the song. And for something so laden with import to be tossed aside, or even worse, to be truly temporary, as transient as a breeze, felt like a betrayal. The betrayal was not Audrey's, but of reality. It felt like a violation.

And now that intensity, that mutually recognized desire, exists solely in me, and ignored in Audrey, given direction toward that nihilism.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


"Happiness is a dark thing to pursue . . . and the pursuit itself is a dark thing as well." Arc D'X, Steve Erickson

"I want to reach my hand into the dark and feel what reaches back." "Want," Recoil

An observer looking in at 9:30 p.m. on a certain weekday night at the random Los Angeles bar would have seen a man and a woman, slightly apart from a gathering, at their own table, gazing intently at each other. The lighting is a dim yellow that will make any memories of this scene sepia-toned and amber-like.

The man and the woman have been staring at each other, not saying a word, for longer than should be comfortable for casual acquintances. As nothing is said and more time passes, there is a palpable feeling that something is changing. It's akin to that sudden drop in pressure, the wind rising just before a storm. By all accounts, the observer would have every right to believe that something is happening, a shift in the relationship between the two.

There should be an import to this scene. There should be a significance.

There should, but there isn't.

We shift perspective. The man knows this gaze. He knows this gaze because he has seen this gaze before, and it comes as a shock. He has seen this gaze because, a long time ago, a woman he loved gave him this gaze at the beginning of the relationship. That old love has gone. The same gaze is here with this woman. He had nearly given up on this woman.

If the world did not move on, perhaps there would be some significance. But the world does move on. Context and sobriety fill in the day. The next day, the woman will tell the man he is mistaken. There is no import.

There are the usual platitudes that the man will tell himself. These platitudes will not stop the insomnia. They will not stop the sense of disappointment so palpable it leaves him physically stunned.

The night will come, and then the false dawn. It will be a long passage.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Running Up That Hill

"It doesn't hurt me.
Do you want to feel how it feels?
Do you want to know, know that it doesn't hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal that I'm making?
You, it's you and me. " -- Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill"

Jack returned home around three in the morning, his shirt damp and smelling of cigarettes, whiskey and stale cologne. He switched on a a single lamp on the first floor, leaving only a small area of yellowed light barely illuminating his coffee table and half his sofa. The rest of his loft was still encased in shadows and moonlight.

He untucked his shirt, unbuttoned the cuffs, but otherwise left his clothing on except for his shoes which he had kicked off when he walked through the door. He went to his kitchen and opened the window, letting the cool Santa Ana winds rip by and chill his skin through his shirt. Then, as he did every night, he opened his fridge and pulled out a blue water bottle. He went to the kitchen counter, twisted the cap of a small plastic bottle, and shook a chalky, hexagonal pill onto his hand.

About a month ago, Jack had switched to taking the SSRI at night. The sudden extra serotonin available to his mind had left him detached and tired during the day, so he realized that he could use the SSRI as a sleep supplement as well as a equalizer if he took it in the evening instead.

Jack placed the pill on his tongue, and then took long, deep pulls from the cold water bottle. He placed the bottle back in the fridge and stood in front of the window, letting the moonlight pour over him.

Each of these actions were slow and deliberate. Jack had taken to imagining everything from a third person perspective, every move a scene in a mental film, a photograph. His actions would exhibit a slow, unassuming manner. If a neighbor across the street had looked at Jack's loft, he was see a silhouette, hands in pocket, framed by bone white moonlight and a dim paper yellow backlight.

This narrative was an exercise in detachment, a complement to the pills and the therapy and the alcohol and the cigarettes. For the past month, he felt anything but detached. Even with the SSRI, he had failed to sleep more than three hours a night. His mind had turned into a mobius strip of circular thoughts of disappointments and frustration. His heart was a pronouncement of broken sighs.

Jack had gone out tonight in an attempt to distract himself. This was the Boys are Back in Town Scenario, walking with his friends in a confident swagger. Buy the Betties drinks, chat them up, play the role of Lothario in a leather jacket and hope those slender legs are wrapped around the waist by the end of the night.

And for a while, Jack had played that role admirably, nodding his head to the giggles of the student/bartender/actress of a brunette that sat across from him. But inevitably, there were lulls--pauses while waiting to buy drinks, or the minute to take a piss, or the inevitable awkward silences--that allowed reflection to break through.

As reflection broke through, so did Jack's inherent intensity. It was not enough to randomly fuck some woman he'd be relieved at not hearing from ever again. There was something in his totality, a compulsion, an obsession, that propelled him to find deeper meaning in everything. There was something in him that conflated deeper meaning with emotion, so that all of Jack's actions were governed by a need for passion.

He would imagine, during these times of reflection, that the rules of perception fundamentally shifted, suddenly allowing everyone to see emotions. In that instant of change, Jack would flare into a brilliant red aura that would suffuse the bar.

But reality was not so accomodating. That swell he felt in his chest, that thunder in his heart that he had begun to feel with only a certain someone, could not change the brush offs, the unreturned calls. That the cascade of emotions were not fundamental rules underlying reality, that longing that felt so certain was not a fourth law of thermodynamics, was beginning to lead Jack to a nihilism of which he did not want to enter.

And so, like every instance he had gone out the past three months, Jack would detach himself. He would be cordial for the rest of the night. He would drive himself home along the empty Los Angeles streets, lit only by the orange streetlights and the blue of his car's dashboard.

He would walk slowly, deliberately into his loft and take his pills.

But tonight, the Santa Ana winds had blown away the smog, leaving the night sky clear so that the stars shown. And Jack, standing at his kitchen window, illuminated by moonlight, looked up at Orion, and let himself hope for a world in which longing was just as tangible a force as thermals beneath a bird's wings.

"C'mon, baby, c'mon darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let's exchange the experience, oh...

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

How Can You Be Sure

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death." -- Pearl Buck

During a recent drunken outing, a comrade of mine proclaimed to me, "You know, she's not who you think she is. Just give it up. You're no good for her and she's no good for you." I ignored this the best that I could since the only perspectives that matter in this situation are mine and hers. And as for who I thought she was, I thought she was kind, quirky, inquisitive and certainly not the stereotypical Angeleno fluffchick whose brushoff I couldn't give two shits about. I thought she was a friend.

At the risk of sounding fatalistic, it appears that my comrade was right. Although I viewed her as a friend, apparently I'm no different to her than some random who asked for her number at a club instead of someone whose gotten to know her for the past few months.

Yeah, I do know that brushoffs are an inherent, intrinsic part of social life. I might as well be railing against getting wet in the rain. And yeah, I do hear that rational voice in my head sounding so mother-like saying, "Gosh, if she treats you like that, why would you want her to be your friend."

Rationality is all well and good, but unfortunately, it doesn't stop the insomnia, the disappointment, that bit of heartache. Knowing that the pharmacology of these reactions can be put down to an sudden, short term decrease in serotonin that no amount of paxil can remedy doesn't get rid of this feeling of sadness.

The thing is, if she were just some random chick I met at a club or on-line, it wouldn't affect me like this. In fact, more often than not, I would've been relieved at the brush off, which in this case was a begged off get together followed by an unreturned call.

But instead, for some reason, I started building up expectations with this one. I know I stumbled with the friendship early on, but I thought it was a friendship. Now though, I know where I stand with her, which is to say I don't stand anywhere with her.

It's a blow, to realize that you really don't mean anything to someone who you liked. It brings you down, it makes you feel worthless, less of a person than you are. A Certain Someone before her had already made me feel worthless for two years. It's not something I want to repeat.

I realize that most people are able to brush off the brushoffs easily, shed off their disappointments like wet clothing. But for me, well, I can't help feeling the accumulation of disappointments. It's a sad Pavlovian response by now--every time I felt that flicker of potential, I get crushed. And this, this just reinforces it.

"When I'm like this how can you be smiling
how can you be sure?
(I don't want you anymore)
How can you be sure?
(I don't want you anymore)
How can you be sure?
(I don't want you anymore)
How can you be sure?" -- Radiohead

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tipping Point

"Feel no shame for who you are." Jeff Buckley, "New Year's Prayer

"Love and death are very similar, because they're the times in your life when you most want to believe in magic, when you yearn for some symbolic act or retrospective edit which can change the world you find yourself in." Hap from "One of Us" by Michael Marshall Smith.

"I have given up trying to recognize you in the surging wave of the next moment." Rainer Maria Rilke

Within the space of an hour, I had gone from having a rather good night, believing that things were back on track to yet another sleepness night, losing all faith in certain matters. There's a part of me that would like to leave everything that I have, move to some dusty nameless town in the Central Valley and cut myself off from everybody that I've ever known.

I know for most of my life, my friends thought "Shit, how is he gonna fuck this up?" with regards to a certain aspect of my life. I also know that I never disabused them of this notion. So they go about, trying to give me well-intentioned advice about what to do and what not to do, providing me with their insight. And in my more insecure days, I actively sought this.

But life is an iterative process, and who they thought I was ten years ago is not really who I am now. I've been through one intense relationship that nearly left me a burnt out shell, that nearly pushed me over the edge. The relationship taught me to be cautious, to hold back on my emotions, keep them in check because I'd rather not go through that again. I've gone out enough to know that I'm not the quiet, awkward guy that I was in college and law school, but instead that I can be charming and cute if I wanted to be.

Now, of course I still make mistakes. I've made some very recently. But they weren't in the same vein as mistakes ten years ago, and more importantly, they were my mistakes and mine alone to deal with.

Not enough positive things can be said for friendship and good intentions, but whether those intentions are beneficial can only be measured in the effects they have.

My friends have seen me at my worst, and being friends, they don't want to see me back there again. I understand. But unfortunately, I feel like they define me, base predictions of my actions, by my worst. As I said before, I have given them much reason to do so before. Yet this doesn't really help me. By defining me by my worst, they are setting me up to fail.

Imagine you're at the office. You've turned in some prior mediocre work, so the whole office is staring over your shoulder, telling you how to write, which correspondence to send to which executive, correcting your punctuation and grammar. They all mean well. They want you to stay employed. Are you going to do a good job because they're rooting for you, or are you going to fuck up under the strain.

There's an additional dimension, common sense that I wish I realized before, which is, after a certain point, my friends just have to let me run with the ball. If I trip up and fumble on my own, my bad, but don't trip me up in trying to push me forward.

Maybe I am deluding myself, maybe the situation really isn't right, but let me find out on my own. At the end of the day, in these certain matters, the only relevant perceptions are mine and the other person's--not the perceptions of my friends, her friends, third parties, etc.

The cliche is "be yourself," but how can you be yourself when you get third hand information that you fucked up. Try being effortlessly charming when in the back of your head, you have "you fucked up," or "it's not the right situation" spinning in your mind. You can't? It's a sure fire way to fuck up if you're friends turned out to be wrong, isn't it?

Unfortunately, at this moment, this entry is too little too late. Because of all this, I am now back to being the person I was ten years ago. This entry is the result of that self-fulfilling prophecy of me being that guy who over-reacts and flies off the handle. How can I not fuck up, not be intense now?

I can't say that I hope for anything different, because I have lost hope, at least for now. I feel heartsick and angry. That tipping point is coming. Maybe I'll welcome it with open arms.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Da Da Da

I know I've always been lucky with gigs appearing just when I need some dosh. They haven't always been the best gigs--First BigLaw and Phuqued Firm can attest to that. But when the reserves run low, somehow, gigs manage to fall into my lap. And not the document review drone gigs, where you sit in a cubicle with six other attorneys for twelve hours a day, the norm of the contract attorney biz. No, instead, I've always gotten gigs that required substantive work--research, motion writing, depositions, court appearances.

So there's a part of me that's not too worried that OceanGig isn't hiring, or what I though was a fallback gig won't be (which actually is good because that office has turned into a morass of low morale and high screaming--I've already been through 5 years of that type of shit).

On the other hand, I have to say I will be bummed if I have to work at the stereotypical document review gig. And shit like this about contract attorneys doesn't help my self-esteem either. That part of me that's been so indoctrinated by the "choose life, choose a job, choose a career" aspect of society is taking a hit to the ego. To paraphrase Trainspotting once again, contract attorneys are apparently "the lowest of the fucking low, the scum of the earth, the most wretched, servile, miserable, pathetic trash that was ever shat into" the legal profession (well, aside from unlawful detainer and collection attorneys).

So yeah, I'm not totally Johnny Sunshine right now, though I haven't really ever been. But I have gone into a Stuart Smalley type spin. Many contract attorneys go into contract work because they have nowhere else to go--they graduate in the middle of the pack from middle tier law schools, and can't get even a SmallLaw job. I'm not denigrating them. Sheesh, but for the grace of God I could've easily been one of them. On the other hand, I started at BigLaw, then jumped to a bigger and better Biglaw and voluntarily took myself out of the running. Working 2600 hours for the rest of my life just wasn't attractive to me. And even if some schmo reviewing my resume tars me with the same brush as other contract attorneys, that difference in legal experience is a significant difference to my ego even if I'm the only person who knows it.

I realized that the aspects that I liked about the law--research, crafting arguements from facts, persuasion--are all creative aspects. The only non-sexual thing that makes me feel whole are the artistic aspects of life--a scene in a movie where the cinematography and acting is just right, the confluence of melody and lyrics of a song, language. So what use is pride in being a BigLaw Partner working fourteen hours a day, worried about the bi-annual draw, making your life beholden to clients who would throw you to the wolves for one simple slip-up, when you're fucking miserable?

Of course, with the realization that it is the impulse to create (or at least the appreciate of others creative impulses)that really drives me, that I will never be happy unless I pursue creative activity, the real problem I have is how to nurture and harnass that impulse. I've been doing research on literary journals in my attempt to publish the short story I've written, and I'm a better writer than nine out of the ten writers a lot of these journals publish. So, quality isn't a worry. Instead, I know my problem is having something to write about.

I guess in the meantime, when I do go back to shoring up the reserves, I gotta remember, "you are not your job."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Am Jack's Dysfunctional Pineal Gland

"With insomnia, nothing's real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy." Narrator, Fight Club

Despite the fact that I'm more at peace with myself now, I'm also entering the fifth straight night of insomnia. I'm too tired to focus, but too wired to relax. I managed perhaps four hours of sleep today, maybe six hours the night before.

I'm not at the point of hallucinating just yet, but I have come up with millions of permutations of every conceivable worst case scenario for a certain missed opportunity. I've though about the economics of interstellar warfare (for a short story that I've been fiddling around with--long story short, doesn't make any economic sense at all). I've wondered about my short term and long term future. I've surfed the web. I've annoyed the crap outta my cat. I've resisted the urge to call friends at 3am in the morning. I'm beginning to look back at those nights filled with dreams about college and missing finals because I haven't studied--in fact, I didn't even know which classes I had been taking because I'd blown them off--with fondness.

Sigh. Maybe I should go to the 7-11 and do some self-medicating--Tylenol PM with a JD chaser.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Half Acre

I know music is such an individual and personal taste. I'm sure that there are people out there who get teary-eyed at the latest Carrie Underwood song, and think that My Chemical Romance is the height of lyricism. So it's difficult to write about those rare three minutes when the confluence of emotions and music are so right that a song stops you in your tracks without sounding awkward.

For the past week, I haven't been sleeping well. I had realized that I had gotten over one relationship only after I realized that I foreclosed certain other possibilities. The prospect of returning to the law leaves me physically ill, but at the same time, I know I need to shore up my reserves once more. And at 1:40 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I received a call from a Certain Someone, with whom I had that relationship I was getting over.

This was one of those nadirs in life, which left me confused and not a little heartsick, paralyzed by the mistakes of the past, those mistakes reaching out to make me stumble along in the present.

Funny how focusing on something random can lead you away.

There's a rather mawkish commercial for Liberty Mutual, an insurance company--it's very "Pay It Forward" where one person witnesses an act of kindness who then in turn does something kind. The commercial is as subtle as a hammer, but it's the music in the background that sticks in your head.

The song is "Half Acre" by Hem. I have a video of a live performance below. Both the vocals and the instrument are beautiful, in a folksy Aaron Copland sort of way. It's only when I read the lyrics and heard the song in its entirety that I felt a burden lift. I know it's rather tacky to refer to another song to describe what I felt, but to paraphrase Hope Sandoval's "Feeling of Gaze," I felt a sin fading.

This isn't a hallelujah moment where I shout, "Blessed be, blessed be, I've been cured!" I still hope in those quiet times that maybe I'm too pessimistic about certain forclosed possibilities, and I still worry about the future. But I do feel a little more at peace with myself. Without much futher ado, here is a video of and the lyrics of "Half Acre" by Hem.

I am holding half an acre
Torn from the map of Michigan
And folded in this scrap of paper
Is the land I grew in

Think of every town you've lived in
Every room you lay your head
And what is it that you remember

Do you carry every sadness with you
Every hour your heart was broken
Every night the fear and darkness
Lay down with you

A man is walking on the highway
A woman stares out at the sea
And light is only now just breaking

So we carry every sadness with us
Every hour our hearts were broken
Every night the fear and darkness
Lay down with us

But I am holding half an acre
Torn from the map of Michigan
I am carrying this scrap of paper

That can crack the darkest sky wide open
Every burden taken from me
Every night my heart unfolding
My home

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sacrificial Bonfire

“Change must be earnt
Sacrificial bonfire must reign
Reign over good
Banish the bad
Oh,Reign over good
Banish the bad, oh, ohh.”
-“Sacrificial Bonfire,” XTC

Jack Lindon was the first one to arrive at the hill. The late afternoon had not turned to twilight just yet, as the setting sun still lit the horizon orange and gold. This, in turn, created a contrast with the sea which was dark, save for the white caps of waves and the small glittering yellow area directly beneath the sun.

He decided to light a cigarette, cupping his hands against the breeze that was flowing inland, bending the hilltop grasses and heather away from him. He then loosened his black tie, and fought the urge to scratch his neck itching from the heavily starched white collar. His black dress slack was looser than he liked, and let the wind flow around his legs. His black suit jacket did a serviceable job keeping him warm.

Beneath him, the village lights were beginning to turn on. Children and adults alike would be dressed up as fairies and dragons, cowboys and astronauts, winding their way through the streets for candies. By the end of the night, after the children were returned home, the villagers would congregate in the main square for the Hallow’s Eve Carnival, laughing and drinking, exchanging kisses between gaudy masks.

Well, the villagers except for Jack and a few, select others.

Jack walked to the kindling on the top of the hill, a large mass of dried wood, old newspaper and discarded toys. As the newest member of the Hill Gang, he had carried the kindling during the dead of night for the last three months. He was one of the few volunteers in the recent past, saving others from the Lottery for the next three years.

For most of his life, the rhythm of Jack’s fortune had followed a point and counterpoint. The rise of his schooling, and later in life, his career, would be inevitably matched by a nadir in his love life–promotions that would occur with a break up. Likewise, the flowering of each new romance would coincide with setbacks in the office or a disruption in his career. Had this rhythm continued, Jack would probably have not volunteered. Even now he was thinking about the flash of green eyes, the kind smile.

However, the last three months of Jack’s life had inexplicably changed. The fortunes in both his career and his love life suddenly met with obstacles simultaneously. He had realized that he had squandered his career by being complacent, and by resting on the graces of his friends instead of completing his own path. At the same time, he inelegantly stumbled in his tentative conversations with a woman who had just recently moved into the village so that promising meetings quickly turned to silence.

By the time Jack finished half a pack of cigarettes, the sun had set beneath the sea, leaving only a red corona surrounded by a deep blue.

“Those things will kill you.” Jack turned around and saw Dr. Kinderman, his physician, a short, stout man in his fifties with curling, salt and pepper hair. Dr. Kinderman was also dressed in a black suit and white shirt, though his was a little more expensive, and certainly more tailored.

Both Jack and Dr. Kinderman chuckled at the weak joke.

“How long have been here?” Dr. Kinderman asked. “You know, no one would have minded if you decided to get a couple of pints, do some flirting. We understand that you’re still young, you know.”

“That’s OK, Dr. Kinderman. I needed to get some air.”

“My my my, so serious. Well, as I said, youth is often wasted on the young. If you’re not going to be drinking with your friends, you might as well take a swig of this, so long as you hand me one of those cancer sticks.” Dr. Kinderman handed Jack a hip flask full of whiskey.

Eventually, more of the Hill Gang arrived. George Haversham, an affluent, thin man in his late-sixties, instructed Jack to start the bonfire. Jack, being the newest member and the youngest, felt awkward among the established members, who were talking amongst themselves about the latest capital gains tax issues, or the doings of their children and grandchildren. Dr. Kinderman had noticed Jack, standing quietly near the fire. “No need to mingle, Jack. You’ll come into your own after tonight,” he said kindly.

By midnight, the Hill Gang was waiting for two more members. The Carnivale in the village was dying down. Jack saw two figures walking up the hill. He knew that they were David Morrison, the second youngest member of the Hill Gang, a young partner at the international law firm of Hale Dickenson, and Alfred Kensington, the oldest member at seventy-two, the founder of the third largest supermarket chain.

“Looks like your initiation is going to be easy,” Dr. Kinderman said. “We don’t have a runner this year.”

Mr. Haversham called out as soon as David and Mr. Kensington were lighted by the bonfire. “I think now is about as good as time as any to start and finish. Dr. Kinderman, do you have the things of old?”

Jack helped Dr. Kinderman carry a trunk of discarded items collected from all the villagers. Jack’s own contributions were photos and letters from old girlfriends. Jack then tipped the trunk into the bonfire.

“Mr. Morrison, is the sacrificial goat ready?” Mr. Haversham asked.

David held Mr. Kensington by his shoulders. It was only then that Jack noticed the golden crown on Mr. Kensington’s head, and that his arms were held behind his back, no doubt bound. Mr. Kensington was swaying, his eyes barely open.

Mr. Haversham sighed. “There was a time when the sacrificial goat was not drugged, and knew its duty.”

“Times change,” Dr. Kinderman said with a shrug.

“Yes, well, indeed they do. Jack, please truss the sacrificial goat.”

Jack walked toward Mr. Kensington and led him toward the bonfire. He then took his belt and wrapped it around Mr. Kensington’s ankles.

“Let us sear the bonfire with the fat of the sacrificial goat,” Mr. Haversham intoned.

Jack looked back at Dr. Kinderman, who nodded his head. He then kicked Mr. Kensington, planting his right foot on Mr. Kensington’s ass and shoving hard.

The kick propelled Mr. Kensington into the fire. Mr. Kensington, like those outside the fire, remained silent. Except for the crackling of meat, it was no different visually than watching a pile of clothes burn.

As the flames began to hide the body, Mr. Haversham nodded to Mr. Morrison. Mr. Morrison produced a gold crown and placed it upon Jack’s head.

“The king is dead, long live the king,” Mr. Haversham said.

“The king is dead, long live the king,” everyone repeated.

“Constable, you’ll take care of the fire I presume,” Mr. Haversham said to a thin man in his forties. When the constable nodded, Mr. Haversham said, “Good, I’m parched. Let’s get a stiff drink for Mr. Lindon.”

Jack felt no change in his fortune, and instead, felt a little foolish with the crown on his head. However, all the members of the Hill Gang were patting him on the back, asking him to stop by their offices, come by their homes. It was too soon to worry about what would happen to him forty-two years from now. Jack walked down the hill, a little tired, and still thinking about the flash of green eyes and a kind smile.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Days Between Stations

“We are all of us living stories that on some deep level give us satisfaction. If we are unhappy with our stories, that is not enough to free us from them.” –Jane’s tutor, “Iron Dragon’s Daughter” by Michael Swanwick

During his freshman October at Duke, an autumn storm fell heavily upon Durham leaving the East Campus full of black ponds and puddles at night. Jack and his friends were rushing from the parking lot to Pegram. The walkway had disappeared underneath the reflections of the orange lamps on the water that had inundated the back lawns of the dorms. None of them had been wise enough to bring an umbrella in the quick trip to Franklin Street and back.

One of Jack’s friend was a North Carolina native, and warned them that they should watch their step. Copperheads were known to come out during the rain, easily rattled and somewhat poisonous. Jack was from the northeast, and the closest he ever got to a snake were small, three-inch long garter snakes, so he made short thrift of the warning as he ran. Then he heard his friend yell, “Stop!”

A few feet ahead of him, something long, thin and sinuous moved slightly above the water. It was perpendicular to him, and soon vanished into the darkness. Jack and his friends moved more carefully after that.

When Jack saw the snake, he felt two incongruent emotions at the same time, both of which had kept him still. He felt awe, amazed that such a creature could exist. He knew theoretically that copperheads did exist, but to see the actuality of such an animal but a few feet ahead stunned him. The other emotion he felt was terror. Had he kept running, he would have been bitten. Had the copperhead sense him, it could have changed course.

Since then, Jack had felt awe and terror on several occasions, though not simultaneously. He hadn’t thought about the copperhead until today.

Jack had been rereading Steve Erickson’s first novel, “Days Between Stations.” It was the type of novel that didn’t have a summary of plot on the back cover, but instead had glowing quotes from various authors, including Thomas Pynchon. Of course, the reason for this was that it was a novel that was so dense with atmosphere, relationship and entanglements that it would do it a disservice to summarize the novel as “a novel about love,” or “a novel of a quiet apocalypse.”

He began rereading “Days Between Stations” when the Santa Ana winds kicked up, making the October days unseasonably hot, while the nights were cold. The descriptions of Los Angeles slowly covered by sands, of Paris burning in bonfires during a frozen winter, or Venice losing its lagoons, all of which were described languidly and matter-of-factly without any explanation, seemed appropriate for the strange days near the close of October.

Jack had not read the novel in a while, and so had forgot the details of the novel even though he remember specific images. The impulse that drove him from scene to scene was not the relationship between Lauren, her unfaithful husband Jason and Michel, but rather the scenes of moonbridges in the backyards of Los Angeles homes, or the innate blue light of Wyndeaux. The connections between those impulses, though, were the descriptions of the emotional lives of the characters, the yearnings and losses.

When Jack reached page 226, he felt that same mixture of awe and terror as when he saw the copperhead.

Jack had first read “Days Between Stations” eleven years earlier. The scene when Lauren went to Venice after her husband, Jason, who had been carelessly unfaithful, knowing that Lauren would always forgive him, begged for once last chance obviously had not registered with Jack after his first couple of readings. Nor did the passages of Michel’s arrival, confident that Lauren would not forgive Jack, Michel's interminable wait for Lauren’s answer, Michel's incomprehension when Lauren chose Jason.

But nine years after first reading “Days between Station,” the first among many incidents occurred with Jack’s own Lauren, a woman named Lynn, on a certain terrible Friday afternoon. And two years after that afternoon, reading the novel again on the hot October day, Jack realized that pages 226 through 238 described with one hundred percent accuracy the actions and emotions of that certain terrible Friday afternoon.

There were superficial differences. Jack’s own interminable waiting took place in his flat in Westwood instead of a hotel room in Venice, Lynn’s discussion occurred in Century City instead of the Accademia Bridge. But otherwise, the passages described almost perfectly Jack’s slow disintegration, Lynn’s decision to stay with Jon, even Jon’s pleading bitter tone toward Lynn.

Jack’s own story and “Days Between Stations” would diverge significantly after that. However, the awe and the terror remained.

To see his own actions and emotions described in a book written twenty years ago, and first read eleven years ago, awed Jack. If he were more metaphysically inclined, he would say he was awed that a novel could foretell events in his own life so clearly. That life suddenly became a piece of metafiction excited and amazed him.

However, the terror came in more than one form. Jack was rational enough to understand that he’s not the first person to be on the losing end of a love triangle, and perhaps the fact that his life so coincided with a novel was that his life, his emotions were simply a cliche. The terror also came from the thought that, if there were some sort of connection between what he read and what happened to him, then he was more than likely doomed “to find himself so near a precipice, and yet to realize so dispassionately what was happening to him[.]”

There was someone new, though to say “new in his life” was somewhat of an overstatement and perhaps a jinx. Suffice it to say, there was a new character and whether she becomes a major character or briefly mentioned in a passage is still uncertain. However, the closeness of “Days Between Stations” unnerved him. He began thinking of what other novels from which his future might fashion.

He could attempt to tread more carefully with the new character, and hopefully fashion his life to one of the lighter stories. And yet, well, yet has still to be fashioned. In the meantime, Jack will simply have to hope that the new character, in whatever role she plays, will cause a different satisfaction at a deeper level, one to change his story.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Living with the Law

I just had a conversation with a friend and former colleague, we'll call her Special K (not because she's special in a short bus kinda way or special in the other kinda way, but just because it sounds friggin' cool). She and I started at my first BigLaw gig at the same time, and we got along because we both knew from the start that the legal gig should be viewed as a temporary phase to be endured until we saved up enough money to stop being miserable.

What's funny in our conversations is that we always turn to the same topic, even if we hadn't spoken for months, and that topic is this: At our age, aren't we supposed to have figured out what the fuck we want to do with the rest of our lives?

Special K now works only part time for BigLaw--in her calculus, which should be applauded, that additional income of billing 2400 didn't nearly compensate her for the time she would have lost watching her two kids grow up. But the funny aspect is that she's been saying that she'll leave the legal profession entirely for the last three years, and it was kind of a shock to find out she was still at BigLaw today.

Not that I'm fairing any better. There's a part of me almost gagging to get back into the law--mainly because I don't want to use all my reserves up. And unfortunately, the Santa Monica gig is still slow and has decided that's the way it likes it. So I'm stuck in the position of potentially working at Certain Someone's firm, which is apparently hiring though I haven't heard back. This is a shit position, no matter how you look at it. Either I get the gig and get paid a load a cashish while my emotional stability takes a hit, or I don't which means I have to settle for much lesser paying gigs or even worse, no gigs at all.

In any event, back to the what the fuck am I doing with my life issue. Although being a document review drone pays a helluva lot better than being a bag boy at Whole Foods or a book stocker at Borders, the law--with it's inherent adversarial nature, where mostly fucktards rise to the top--is an emotional and intellectual grind. It leaves many of us physically ill thinking about forty years of dealing with asshole opposing counsel, incompetent case management and, well, document review. So obviously, being a lawyer is not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I guess I should take comfort in that I am far from the only one out there who feels this way.

On the other hand, what is the alternative? I've begun to realize that, even though I can write damn well, it's the impetus to write damn well about something that is lacking most of the time. And even if I could churn out a short story a day, a novel a month, publishing is still a complete crap shoot. I know, I see the advice about writing everyday, the platitudes that you don't write for money but out of love. And I do love writing. But if it were that easy, then every earnest blogger out there, every plump New Jersey housewife who writes fanfiction for Days of Our Lives, every nebbishly Los Angeles Starbucks barista would be best-selling authors.

What keeps me going is that I don't want to end up twenty years from now and saying, "I gave up on my dreams when I was fifty," which my dad actually said. (If there's a narrative that I'm living, I'd rather it not be Willy Loman's.)

But in the meantime, it looks like I, as well as a multitude of discontent attorneys. will just have to go on doing the whole lives of quiet desperation thing. Shit. Thank God for XBOX 360s, Oban scotch and the furtive glances of green eyes I guess.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

And now for something completely different

For some reason, this skit from Kids in the Hall makes me laugh and laugh and laugh . . .

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pyramid Song

"I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt"
--"Pyramid Song", Radiohead

Lately, a recent memory began replaying in his mind. At the beginning of the year, he had been invited to celebrate a friend's birthday at a dinner and flamenco show in Los Feliz. He was still taking several blood pressure pills at the highest dosages, making him faintly and pleasantly dizzy on a regular basis.

Evening came quickly and early, so that by six, it was already pitch black save for the orange lights coming from street lamps. He had not eaten much during the day, nor had he drank much alcohol in the prior months. Yet the stress of driving in an area foreign to him increased his craving for a shot of whiskey and a beer. Also, he was using his doctor's advice that a moderate amount of alcohol was good for his heart as an excuse to start drinking again.

Several of his friends were already at the restaurant, which was almost as dark as the outside, its wood interior dimly illuminated in red and orange. They had all decided to order a pitcher of sangria, and he decided to also order a beer. He made short thrift of the beer and finished a glass of sangria rather quickly.

Within the half hour, he began to feel rather warm. His heart was making a hummingbird beat. It felt like he was breathing through smoke. He started seeing flashes of color and stars in the corner of his vision. He excused himself to go outside to grab some fresh air. Every so often, he had felt this claustorphobic response which dissipated after a few minutes in the cool air. He had no reason to expect any differently.

One the friends followed him outside to make sure he was OK. He reassured the friend that he was perfectly fine, and that he just needed to sit down. Then he was on his back, opening his eyes, his friend saying, "It's OK, man. Just rest. You passed out." He actually felt better than he had in months. His mind was clear. He felt refreshed. Eventually, he went inside, watched the flamenco show and had dinner. "Don't pass out" became the running inside joke among his friends.

There was a significance to this memory that he would later tell only to his high school friend a coast away. There was no subjective transition between setting himself down to sit, reassuring his friend he was quite alright and then opening his eyes, his back on the concrete walkway. Apparently, a minute or so had passed. And yet he felt no passage of time while his brain decided to shut down briefly. That minute period was a nothingness--no consciousness, no thoughts, no dreams or hallucinations. There was not even an awareness of a nothingness. This is when he realized that he did not fear his own mortality. If there was no awareness, this nothingness, even with a brief deprivation of oxygen to the brain, then what was there to fear?

He would come back to this memory in the couple of months after that friend's birthday dinner, when he was barely able to cope with a broken relationship that had ended several months previously. It was the closest to the edge that he had ever been. It is the fear of whatever lay in that undiscovered country that kept most in his position alive, that fear outweighing whatever pain was being felt. But without that fear, the emotional calculus changed--to know that the alternative to that paralyzing sadness was a nothingness so complete that you were unaware of it. But for better or for worse, he valued the feelings of this friends and his family more than his own. It would be selfish for him to take that step. He even thought about his cat that had grown attached to him and only him, plaintively yowling for a scritch behind the ear, the rub on the tummy that would never come. This pulled him back.

He got help. Eventually, he learned how to deal. He went through the motions. He had met people who exited as quickly out of his life as quickly as they came, and because this did not bother him (in fact, he had a palpable sense of relief whenever this happened), he was convinced that he had lost the ability to feel that spark of potential, to feel smitten. This, he believed, was not a bad thing. It made life simpler. Soon, other factors in the emotional calculus became greater. The warmth of friends, a late lunch at a Santa Monica pub with the cool ocean air drifting through, good thoughts that kept him tethered.

And then, about a month ago, another friend invited him to happy hour at a cozy Hollywood bar to meet some friends of friends. This was not unusual. He expected to go out, go through the motions of chatting with new people, then go home and watch whatever he had Tivo'd quickly forgetting the names and the faces of those he met. But a small thing happened. Maybe it was a smile, or a sustained glance, or having his jokes being laughed at. Maybe it was none of those. But there was a small feeling which he thought was dead, and suddenly it mattered if he saw her again.

This scared the shit out of him. With the spark comes a good chance that it will become extinguished. Simplicity becomes chaotic. He knew himself very well, and knew that he, in all likelihood, would fuck this up.

And when he didn't fuck up the next few times he saw her again, it gave him a feeling of hope. Maybe he could escape the past. Maybe he could let go and move on.

But unfortunately, this coincided with a very bad anniversary. Maybe it was self-sabatoge given certain admonishments about the age difference, or given that he was not wholly over the other relationship. Maybe it was just pure stupidity. But as he predicted, he fucked it up and fucked it up royally, mentioning that other relationship on the one time they hung out without others. He acted too intense instead of just being.

Like the other women in the past few months, she exited his life as quickly as she came in. Unlike the other women, he regretted this.

His emotional calculus began to change again. That feeling of spark, that feeling of being smitten was now inextricably tied with that feeling of frustration, helplessness and sadness. He didn't know which was worse--that most of his friends thought "Shit, how is he gonna fuck this up?" whenever he met someone, or that he never disabused them of this notion.

He began craving whiskey at 11 in the morning, a pack of Malboro Reds. He had to hide himself from certain get togethers so as not to make her feel awkward. He tried to be proactive, to keep the calculus stable by taking selective serotonin inhibitors. He tried to remind himself of other short-lived situations like this, the memories of which he barely remembered.

This doesn't change the fact that he's not out on the weekends, that he had to stay home yesterday night.

The signifance isn't just this most recent incident, but the likelihood that this incident will be one of a long, inevitable sequence of friendly correspondence filled with potential turning into silence. The significance is the return of that memory of the incident from earlier this year, that nothingness so complete you aren't even aware of it. The significance is that each further sequence will lead to a tipping point in his emotional calculus.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


So I have embarked on yet another pharmacological journey with yet another serotonin reuptake inhibitor--this time it's paxil. I was getting sick of thoughts that repeatedly circled around my mind like particles around an accretion disk, that would not leave me alone until they finally flared as intense behavior, mental paralysis, or blog entries. It should come as no surprise that my mother is on paxil, and that there is no doubt a genetic component to my behavior. It's actually changed her personality for the better--she's calmer, less intense. So I figured what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Now, much of what I'm feeling is no doubt a placebo effect--I've only been taking it for a week, and most SRI's take at least a month to have any noticeable effect. But I do feel a change. And I wouldn't be me if I didn't say I feel rather ambivalent about this.

On the one hand, sure I still have certain thoughts that I hold onto more often than not, but the urgency and the sense of helplessness that I have no control over these events are gone. There is a lack of intensity to my feelings--sure I may be sad that I really dropped the ball recently, but it's a distant, clinical sadness instead of a keening, depressive sadness.

On the other hand, this lack of intensity has hampered my urge to create and my enjoyment of anything creative. Listening to my Ipod on shuffle leads at best to a harmless nostalgia. I'm reading novels out of a sense of inertia instead of a sense of wonder. I can barely be bothered to write the second short story.

I'll give this thing a full month on the chance that this is simply my mind going through changes, and that I'll be in a new equilibrium soon. Maybe grey is how life is supposed to be.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Back Where We Started . . .

And so yet another full year has passed in my life, and I am officially in my "mid-thirties." In any event, I figured now that the first day of my mid-thirties has passed, I'd do a survey made up by yours truly since I'm still wired.

What was the first song you heard on your birthday?
Well, at midnight, my Ipod played "Wave of Mutilation." Not sure I want that to have any portentious meaning there. The first official song of the morning was "Green Eyes" by Coldplay, and I really frakking hope that does mean something.

What was the first thing you watched on television on your birthday?
MSNBC. I can't remember what the tagline was.

What was the first thing you ate/drank on your birthday?
Some limeade with a bunch o' pills.

What was the first think you read on your birthday?
Page 46 of lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub--"On the grounds that the overall roominess more than made up for the added cost, whenever possible Tim Underhill rented Lincoln Town Cars."

What gifts did you receive?
The warm company of good friends--plus I'm sure the 'rents are sending some cashish.

What gifts did you buy yourself?
A whole bunchamunchacruncha books.

What did you do for your birthday?
Met my wonderful friends at the Well in Hollywood, then headed for another Hollywood party as a second act.

What did you wish for?
Yeah, I'm not telling that one, but I'm hoping against hope it will come true.

Best part of your birthday?
Obviously hanging out with friends, especially a buddy who drove all the way from the OC. And there is a small thing that made me giddy for a while.

Worst part?
Awww, why'd you have to go negative. OK, realizing that I may have f'd up on something that I hope my birthday wish will rectify.

Last song you heard on your birthday?
Not sure. Midnight passed by without me knowing. Though the last song I heard when I got out of the car was Fatboy Slim's Song for Shelter.

You sure you won't tell us your birthday wish?
Won't come true if I tell it. Though it does have something to do with the small thing that made me giddy and that something I may have f'd up.

Plans for the year?
I would like a place I could call my own, have a conversation on the telephone, wake up everyday that would be a start, I would not complain about my wounded heart. Oh, plans that aren't a New Order lyric--OK, get something published, maybe, just maybe have a non-dramatic healthy relationship (yeah, yeah, and all the kids in the world want chocolate).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

But Still You Call That Number

"i'm alive, it kinda took me by surprise
but everytime i look away, there's no light
there's no sentry at the gate" -- Twilight Singers, "There's Been An Accident"

There's a controversial theory that posits labile personalities, where moods are affected wildly by the environment--a penny found on the floor inducing mania, a unkind word causing a catatonic depression, a car cutting you off causing rage--are in part due to an overactive sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the flight or fight instinct--it raises the energy level so that an individual can adjust and react to the environment. With an overactive sympathetic nervous system, the flight or fight instinct has a hair trigger.

I write this because I'm trying to be cold and rational about myself. If I can rationalize this, then I can deal with this recent re-emergence of old pattern. Unfortunately, identifying the problem doesn't really help me much. I'm sure a paraplegic knows which spinal discs are severed, but that doesn't help him much to stand.

Just a little spark of interest on my part, an ability I had long thought died, and I'm falling back into the same pattern. That beginning euphoria, potentials filling me hope, and then the nervousness, being too analytical, coming to conclusions, over-interpreting every small thing in hope of some meaning. I'm already thinking of every possible negative outcome (because I have been hit with almost every possible negative outcome--fuck, if you've read this blog, you've seen it all--from the simply just not interested to the intervenor who happens to catch her interest shortly after I've met her to, well, a Certain Someone). I think the random intervenor option is happening here, with a smidge of just not interested.

I wish that with this identification of this very real problem, I could just avert this behavior. I'm trying my damndest. But instead I find myself disgusted that I'm back in this pattern, and only after a couple of weeks from that unilateral little spark. Of course, this feeds into another round of negative realizations. If I'm feeling like this so quickly, obviously that doesn't make me that attractive--honestly, I'm one of the last people who should be in a relationship of any sort.

And of course, it just reinforces my belief that everything is just noise.

My friends keep telling me that I need to look at what has happened as a positive--a part of me that I thought was gone forever is back. There is hope. There is potential. That I am healing. I'm trying. I honestly am trying. But I can't help thinking that every single time I've felt this, I ended up feeling redfaced and disappointed. That everytime I see a secret smile directed my way, there's a part of me that says it's nothing, it's noise and dross. Even if there's some potential, I'll fuck it up because I complicate things.

After a Certain Someone, I wouldn't care that "Yeah, I'll give you a call" is just an empty Angeleno farewell platitude because I really had no other expectation, nor did I care. And now, well, you can probably guess.

My therapist told me the one way to avoid all this is just to become a recluse, like J.D. Salinger--with no risk comes no disappointment. Given my recent reactions (which I concede is fucked up and over the top, duh, that's why I'm making this attempt to exorcise these demons), maybe that's what I should become. Because that ability to feel the spark is back, as well as all the attendent issues.

This no longer makes me feel a righteous anger against myself. I'm just sad. Sad, and very, very tired.

"far away, where you run, when it all became undone
you'll be dust, realize, you were taken for a ride
but still you call that number, til you're crawling under
them stones, assorted jones, and all alone." --Twilight Singers, "There's Been An Accident"

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Let Down

Sometimes, I wish I weren't right.

Transport, motorways and tramlines,
starting and then stopping,
taking off and landing,
the emptiest of feelings,
disappointed people, clinging on to bottles,
and when it comes it's so, so, disappointing.

Let down and hanging around,
crushed like a bug in the ground.
Let down and hanging around.

Shell smashed, juices flowing
wings twitch, legs are going,
don't get sentimental,
it always ends up drivel.
One day, I am gonna grow wings,
a chemical reaction,
hysterical and useless
hysterical and

let down and hanging around,
crushed like a bug in the ground.
Let down and hanging around.

Let down,
Let down,
Let down.

You know, you know where you are with,
you know where you are with,
floor collapsing, falling, bouncing back
and one day, I am gonna grow wings,
a chemical reaction, [You know where you are,]
hysterical and useless [you know where you are,]
hysterical and [you know where you are,]

let down and hanging around,
crushed like a bug in the ground.
Let down and hanging around.

--Radiohead, "Let Down"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Just Like A Bug On The Ground . . .

Astronomers detect new planets by carefully measuring the miniscule wobbles of a star over a period of time. If the planets are massive enough, their gravitation creates wobbles detectable only by the most careful, high powered telescopes. The planets themselves are not directly detected, at least not with the current technology.

Yup, I'm about to segue into another tortious metaphor. If you're a casual observer, watching me as I go about my life, interacting with people, you're not going to see anything unusual. I'll chat, smile at the right times, be polite, and act pretty regular. But those who know me well realize that I do have a slight wobble, one that's been there for the last year. A couple of friends ask me, "So how's the ladies front?" and I shrug nonchalantly--a sincere apathy as opposed to a superficial reaction to disguise frustration. When I've been out on dates, I'm aware enough to know that I'm just going through the motions of being charming and engaging--my therapist says "You're there but you're not there." Needless to say, those dates haven't led to anything. Three years ago, that would've gotten me down. Now, there's almost a palpable sense of relief.

Obviously, that massive planet orbiting around me unseen except for the influence it exerts upon my life is a Certain Someone, who left me almost a year ago (and a week after my birthday--I guess you can say I'm ambivalent about my birthday). I've already dwelled enough upon how that catastrophically impacted my life, catastrophic enough that I am in therapy. Don't worry, I'm better now. But the one positive--if you can call it that--thing that occurred is that it made my life a helluva lot simpler.

Call it what you will--labile personality, poor impulse control, ridiculously romantic, bipolar--but I used to ride my emotions instead of controlling them. And despite efforts to be positive, I was the type of guy who at the first smile of an attractive woman at the beginning of the night was already thinking about the slap on the face and slammed doors at the end of the night. Not exactly a healthy combination. That first wave of giddiness would always be followed by a depressive low. Soon, I was associating that giddiness with the inevitable lows so even when I was happy, I was sad. Anytime I began feeling interest, I also felt incredibly foolish.

Now, after Certain Someone, I didn't feel any of those highs upon meeting someone. I believed that ability got burned out of me. Sure, I went on dates, but then I'd go home, catch some Tivo and sleep well instead of having a sleepless but excited night thinking about potentials. Life was much simpler this way. I didn't have to think about meeting someone, having a relationship, that possibility of having to support more than myself, being a fulltime lawyer, a white picket fence, two kids, a dog and a cat. I could be content, living life aimlessly, trying to write and maybe get some side gigs as a contract lawyer. And, I certainly didn't feel foolish, redfaced and disappointed about my social life. Foolishness requires unmet and unrealistic expectations, of which I had none.

And now, well, let's say I'm preparing myself to feel foolish, redfaced and disappointed again.

Even though this might sound like the blogger protesteth a bit too much, nothing earth-shattering has happened. I didn't "meet someone," because that connotates a mutual interest. But for the first time in over eleven months, something is flickering. Think of it as a confluence of small things eliciting something larger, the way a cool wind off the beach hits you as you're listening to Jeff Buckley's "Grace" while eating fish and chips in Santa Monica can lead to a moment of perfection. So it's not so much that I "met someone." I didn't. It's the confluence of small things, perhaps a smile, perhaps random conversation, and now I'm feeling that flicker.

And although a part of me is trying to enjoy that flicker for what it is--a hope that what I thought was gone inside me is actually still there, there's also an equal part of me that's telling me to run for the hills, it can only lead to being let down again.

"One day, I am gonna grow wings,
a chemical reaction,
hysterical and useless"
- Radiohead, "Let Down"

Monday, October 02, 2006

Wake Up Everyday That Would Be A Start

Ah YouTube, a boon to lazy bloggers everywhere. So in the spirit of cautious optimism I seem to be having in my life these days:

This is one of my favorite New Order songs--it has surprisingly sweet and direct lyrics, like Bernard is almost tentatively admitting that things are going well. And of course, there's that little bit of doubt near the end. Very on the nose for my state of mind.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I've Been Thinking About You Baby . . .

OK, so I know that maybe four people in the United States will understand how much this just absolutely rocks--The Twilights Singers have done a cover of Massive Attack's most recent single, "Live With Me." C'mon, how often does one of your top two favorite bands cover the other top favorite band?

OK, so here's the original Massive Attack version (though you will have to wait through 30 seconds of random prologue):

Orchestral, lush, and dark--it's red wine, dark chocalate and desire.

And here's the Twilight Singer version:

Just as dark, but slower, smokier--cigarettes, roses and passion.

These are the small things that make me feel whole on quiet nights.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


OK, so I haven't been on some self-pitying binge full of melancholy and darkness. Instead, I had a realization that, instead of working on a novel during this hiatus, I should instead be writing short stories--little creative outbursts that keep me writing, and instead of slogging through four months of hitting the square peg through the round hole, I get that accomplishment euphoria in a couple of weeks. I've finished one short story that I've sent to some friends for peer review--I realized it was a ghost story without a ghost, oh, and some quantum physics, halfway through writing it. I think I'll try something upbeat next. After I get a couple more stories out of the way, I'll start sending them to various lit magazines and see what happens. If I do get them published, then I'll have some lit cred to get some leverage for a novel.

In any event, I figure I owe whoever is still reading this blog something insanely cheerful for putting up with my absences. Here's the second (and better) version of the video for Feist's "Mushaboom." It's just so friggin' happy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Ah yes, here's the product of another self-imposed writing exercise, this time to see if I can write some Lovecraftian horror. The lesson learned? I'm not sure, other than trying not to info-dump is hard when your narrative depends heavily on dialogue. Bleah. Oh well.

Video from security camera #2, interrogation room #5A in Counterintelligence Field Activity station located in ______; 19:07 hours, April 11, 20__, ten days before discovery of the Ceres Object, three days before the Cincinnati Incursion, one day after the Lexington Hysteria:

The video is in color, but the walls are dark grey and the floor is concrete so that the video might as well be in black and white. As requisitions for higher quality recording devices have still yet to be approved, the video is of low quality such that the facial features of the subject and the two guards remain indistinct. (For photographs of the subject, please refer to CIFA File #1013AA Babel or the notes of Dr. G. Gustavson.)

The subject is seated in a plastic chair, hands cuffed behind his back and feet manacled to the floor. He is naked, and although the room is set to forty-degrees Fahrenheit, he does not appear to be suffering any discomfort. There are electrodes on various parts of his body that lead toward a machine at another end of the room. The subject is looking at the one-way mirror (framed at the right of the screen). On the top left of the screen is one of the guards in full body armor with his semi-automatic drawn and aimed at the subject’s head. The muzzle tip from the other guard’s sidearm located at the bottom left of the screen is the only sign of the other guard’s presence.

A voice off screen is heard. The quality of the recording is also poor. There is an underlying hiss of white noise.

“I apologize once again for these precautions. You understand that you make, well, quite a few people nervous. I’m sure that once you begin answering our questions, you will go a long way of dispelling our concerns.”

The subject speaks. “Dr. Gustavson, I’m not here to dispel any concerns. And even if I were, I’ve already answered your questions. You just aren’t listening.” Although the image is poor, there is a distinct feeling by several observers of the video that the subject is grinning.

“Well, maybe we aren’t. Please, explain it to us again. It doesn’t do us any good to have you in there like this, and it can’t be too enjoyable for you.”

“This? This is all irrelevant. Dr. Gustavson, did you know the Mayans invented the concept of zero seven hundred years before the Battle of Hastings, and almost a full millennia before the concept spread to Europe from India? This from a civilization that didn’t fucking use the wheel.”

“This is all very interesting, but . . .”

“But you’re not paying attention. Our geography, our culture, our environment drives us. The Mayans invented one of the most accurate calendars in the world at the time our ancestors were painting their asses blue. But they didn’t use the wheel because there were no fucking draft animals in the Americas. The Japanese have a highly stratified society, so is it any wonder that you have to add five syllables to create a negative sentence and three different syntaxes exist depending on whether you’re speaking to a superior, your equal or an inferior? You want me to tell you how I did it, but you’re all so obtuse. What you should be asking is how are they different from us? From where did they originate? Even if you knew the language, that knowledge will not make a bit of difference if you can’t think like them.”

“Well, how do they think?”

“Dr. Gustavson, you know that they say. ‘If you have to ask . . .’”

“Please, none of us have expended the amount of time or energy in the area of . . .”

Subject sighs. “I think I have been patient enough. You’ve found the mounds in southern Illinois, in Lesotho and in Tikrit. You have linguists and semiotic theorists working on this. If you can’t figure it out for yourself, then you don’t deserve the knowledge.”

“I don’t think my superiors will be too happy about your answer or your attitude.”

“Do you want an answer? Really? Hmmmm, fine. I’m just spinning my wheels here anyway. Are the recording devices in working order?”

Dr. Gustavson begins to stutter.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure they are. OK, ready for the answer?”

Subject opens his mouth. The audio plays something like a growl or guttural whisper, then becomes inaudible. The video recording warps and then goes to static. After 2.4 seconds, the video reestablishes and, implausibly, is sharper and clearer. There are thin lines on the bottom of the screen (which are determined to be the blood of PFC Walter Hillard–his body has still not been found). Off camera is a hysterical giggling. (Dr. Gustavson will be found playing in his own urine. As of this date, Dr. Gustavson remains in a manic, hysterical state.) The guard in the corner is naked and repeatedly smashing his head against the wall.

The subject is no longer in the chair. He appears walking from the bottom of the screen, back turned to the camera, buttoning up clothing taken from one of the guards. He then turns to the camera and directly addresses it.

“I want you to know this. I want you to know that I came here voluntarily. Do you understand? I wanted you to know the significance of my findings. I gave you every chance, but you just wouldn’t listen. They had so much power, but they didn’t have intelligence as we think of it. They had no need of a binding internal narrative. They had willpower and a binding purpose as an adaptation from a chaotic environment where decoherence did not exist. They had no need for an internal self-referential model of themselves where every possibility existed, but every need to manipulate those possibilities. And they are coming back, and don’t like what we have done in binding the world to one, uniform reality in our image. I will be ready, but I’m afraid you won’t. I would say good luck, but seeing what happened to Dr. Gustavson, well, I feel very very sorry for you all. I’m leaving now.”

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


So President Bush has just admitted that the CIA did have a secret program to interrogate terrorist suspects overseas, and is now making a big deal about sending these terrorists to Gitmo for trial where they are presumed innocent and the rule of law shall prevail. I'll leave aside the Chris Rock quote I have in my head ("You supposed to you low-expectation-having mutherfucker! What do you want, a cookie?")

Instead, I ask this question: Whatever happened to "Terrorism is not a law enforcement matter"?* Kinda sad that the MSM probably won't point out the fact that ol' Shrub, by now stating that he is for putting terrorists on trial instead of indefinitely detaining them overseas, is in essence stating that Kerry was right.

*10/10/04 Quote from "Face the Nation" by Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee 2003-2005 Chairman, criticizing Sen. John Kerry

Friday, September 01, 2006

Come From Way Above . . .

Yup, that's right. Even more prose!

To become an angel, you must forsake your past. Family and friends are no different than old clothing and forgotten toys, to be left behind as unnecessary remnants of a life from which you are supposed to move on.

The path to become an angel, to leave onself behind, to open oneself to the Divine, is as individual and distinct for each person, though these paths can be overgeneralized into three categories. Some are led by the tried and true methods of sleep deprivation, of mob mentality, of physical and mental abuse alternating with praise and sympathy. Some are taught breathing exercises and meditation, to focus on everything and nothing and realize there is no difference. As there is a War ongoing, more and more are being led into the barracks, their heads placed in electromagnetic resonance helmets that directly induce rapture via manipulation of the parietal lobes. Except for the second grouping in which every so often a Principality and even one Power arose, those who arrive at the Waystation invariably only transcend to the rank of angel. If you need assistance in transcendence, you probably don’t have it in you to fly very far.

My path to the Divine was rather mundane. After a particularly bad break up, listening to Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” over and over again, and finding myself tiptoed on the ledge of a Century City office building rooftop (and more importantly, being found by the security guard who had propped open the roof access to smoke a big fat joint of Mauwie Wauwie), I was given a choice of voluntary commitment and ongoing therapy or Transcendence. I loved my family and friends, all of whom wanted me to take the first option, but I realized I loved them in a way that I loved “Simpsons” reruns at 6:00 p.m. I know that might sound harsh, but that particularly bad break up was with a woman who with a love that felt like the fluttering of wings in my chest. After that, at least at that moment, every single thing in my life lost the sheen of importance. So I could either sit on a couch about shit that meant jack to me, or I could learn how to jump off a roof and soar into the air and not land as a 150 pound sack of meat, crumpling some jagoff’s penis substitute of a sports car.

The Los Angeles Waystation was located at the old Greyhound Station on 7th Street. Most of the homeless that had littered the streets were gone, having been among the first to enter into the Waystation to be transformed. Most of them were no doubt flying over Damascus, taking arms against Gadriel and the Sovereigns, or hunting down the Fallen or Non-Aligned (who, depending on the politician and faction, might as well be Fallen) in alleyways from Caracas to Wellington. When I entered the Waystation those months ago, I heard whispers that the Angels who floated above the entry, one black, square-jawed, and handsome, the other white, rugged and sandy-haired, both in bright platinum plating with Kevlar webbing, fiery swords and Glocks holstered, had been crackheads from the area who panhandled at the local McDonalds. Every so often, their fire in their eyes would alight, and they would perform some minor miracle on the few homeless who decided to stay mundane. Perhaps turning Chicken McNuggets into fresh strawberries, or providing moments of clarity, fifty dollars and a resume to a crack dealer.

Like all Waystations, the inside the larger than the outside, a strange phenomena that is necessary given the thousands of initiates who enter everyday, the tens of thousands who are housed and cared for until Transcendence. One the outside was a bus station that took up a square block of sun-addled concrete and weeds. But the inside was an elegant station of white marble doric columns, three story stained glass windows filtering a constant sunlight buttery in its texture, and a floor that seemed to extend hundreds of yards. I remember watch a show on Discovery Times with one of the Virtues, working with a quantum physicist at the University of Chicago, attempting to explain how this was possible. However, I got lost within the phrases like “static Planck measurement fallacy” and “dark energy substrates like rebar through concrete.” That small agnostic part of me smiled that there were those in the Hierarchy who sought answers after the first fall at the Battle of Antietam. Even when Raphael appeared on “Oprah” to proclaim once and for all that the world was not 6000 years old, and that the Bible was allegory (although Jesus did transcend), and none of the angels had any thoughts on abortion, there were still small-minded literalists who firebombed womens’ clinics and proclaimed only they knew God’s message.

The first step of a path was a questionnaire with 5000 questions. There were the standard personality type questions (At a party, which do you prefer? (a) To lead in the fun; (b) To sit back and people watch; (c) To hang out with your friends; (d) You’re just there for the free food). But there were some very odd questions (What does electricity taste like? True or false: The thought of warm oven mitts, wire mesh and orthopedic shoes excites me). The Powers who oversee the questionnaires take the time it takes to answer each question as well as the totality of the questionnaire into consideration.

Next was a physical battery. There were stress tests, laps around a track and in the pool. There was lifting of weights and throwings of balls. I was prodded and poked. Electrodes were attached. Blood was drawn. Probes were, well, inserted in areas where things are normally ejected.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kicking the Dirt

OK, here's the result of a self-imposed writing exercise--just flat out write without thinking or editing for thirty minutes. What the hell is it with me and the Central Valley?

“Aw fuck, man, you know there are people who go to college to do what we do?” Cal asked, coming out of the restroom, thumb and forefinger to his nostrils, trying to get every last snort of the blow.

I didn’t bother to tell him that those people were most likely at the San Moritz catering to all the beautiful and plasticized rather than at the Motel 6 off the Buttonwillow exit running the Visas of doughy families on their way to Disneyworld and truckers with battered porn under their seats.

One of these days, I gotta ask Cal where exactly to find blow in the Central Valley. This is crystal meth land, sunbaked and cracked full of hicks shouting “White Power” while cooking up chemicals that could bring down a federal building if you’re not too careful, cooking them up as their toddlers go underfoot sucking their mouths on empty beer bottles. There aren’t any power brokers or aesthetic effetes here.

“Goddamnit, there’s gotta be a way to stop some of that shit from going down my throat,” Cal said. “The guy who figures out how to stop that will be one rich man, I tell you. Hey, anything sticking out?”

“No, man, you got the shirt all tucked in,” I replied.

Cal is a thin, wiry little fucker, and vain too. He told me the reason he’s not a crankhead is that he doesn’t want his teeth all yellow and shit. “Gotta look good for the ladies, know what I mean?” He figures that he and his ratty ass brown ponytail will save up some money from this gig and eventually head down a 120 miles south to Lalaland. There, he’ll get a recording contract. That’ll happen when the world clamors for coked acoustic renditions of Bon Jovi, but hey, a man has to have his dreams and I’m not that much of a dick to tell him he’s full of it. So I keep to myself that I used to live in Los Angeles, and that it is chock full of people with voices that could make angels cry busking on the Promenade for singles and living in shitholes.

At two in the clock in the afternoon, there ain’t jack to do. Check out time is at noon, and the type of folks who stay here are straggles who’ve been on the road too long while too cheap to splurge for the Holiday Day in two doors down. You don’t get those folks until eleven at night. So I get back to running totals from last night for the fourth time and trying to ignore that greasy feeling in my gut that comes from trying to digest my fifth Carl’s Jr. burger in a week.

7844; 22.7; 29.75

Number of songs on my Ipod after finally copying all my CDs + a few albums I downloaded from ITunes (note that there were many songs I decided not to copy from my CDs); Number of days it would take to listen to all the songs on my Ipod straight through; Number of gigabytes taken up (good thing I got the 60 gig Ipod).

Um, I guess you can say music is an important part of my life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Incompetence should be a godsend if found in an opposing counsel. Incompetence should make your life easier–you don’t have to do hours of research and critical analysis to come up with a reply because stupidity speaks for itself. All you have to do is point it out. Really, most of the effort that you spend in dealing with opposing counsel’s incompetence is spent trying to figure out that exactly the jackass is arguing. Demolishing that argument is simple after that. Incompetence manifests itself in blown deadlines, dumb admissions (“well, my client does not dispute it hasn’t paid the money”), logic that smacks of effort (“my corporate client does not owe any money because the high level corporate executive who dealt with day to day operations had no authority to enter into the contract”), misrepresenting the law whether by intention or negligence (“those cases hold that there is no contract even though the court in those cases said that there was a contract in these same circumstances), and just plain poor writing and structure.

And yet invariably, lawyers including myself would rather deal with a whipsmart opposing counsel who can give as good as she gets and will force us to actually do work than the mental midget whose work is the legal equivalent of walking out the bathroom with his fly still unzipped and wet splotches all over his pants. I used to think this was due to professional pride. I don’t want myself associated with Corky the Very Special Lawyer. But that sort of shame by association only exists if you care about clients, and as almost every lawyer will tell you, the worst thing about lawyering are the clients.

No, I think what drives me bugfuck about incompetent opposing counsel is that, more often than not, they get away with it. There are a variety of reasons for this. In state court, most judges come from a pool of attorneys from small to mid-sized firms of the variety that have no lawyers from BigLaw backgrounds. These small to mid-sized firms don’t have the same resources as BigLaw, and their lawyers, by the ratio of lawyers to cases and the lower quality of the cases, do a lot of shit on the fly. The pool of law students they get aren’t exactly creme de la creme (if you’re Order of the Coif, are you going to choose BigLaw willing to pay you $140,000 off the bat to be in a cog in the wheel of multi-million dollar matter, or SmallLaw paying you $40,000 a year to deal with slip and falls?) Though there are idiots in BigLaw (because how good of a law student you were does not necessarily translate into how good a lawyer you will be), the mix of a load of crap ass cases in these smaller firms, the cost benefit analysis making it rationale to be quick and speedy on a low-value case as opposed to rational and smart, make for massive amounts of incompetence. (I should note, I am overgeneralizing, and in this overgeneralization, I am not including a subcategory of small firms whose members came from BigLaw–they tend to carry over that weird feeling from being a BigLaw associate to, you know, spend time on a case, even if it is a low value loser of a case).

ANYWAY, so most of the state court pool of judges come from these small to mid-sized firms where expediency and what necessarily arises from it (bad logic, bad research, bad writing, and bad case management) unfortunately are prevalent. To put it simply, incompetent opposing counsel often get away with their incompetence because state court judges incompetent opposing counsel. On one of the cases I was on, I had opposing counsel admit in court that he blew a court-ordered deadline, but the judge didn’t do squat. Opposing counsel then admitted after the hearing that if he were the judge, he would have sanctioned himself. Other lawyers I’ve spoken with said this particular judge isn’t that bright. Sigh. And I truly got the sense from the hearing that, even though the judge had set the deadline which opposing counsel blew, the judge himself had blown deadlines as an attorney. After I mentioned that opposing counsel was simply using delay tactics, the judge stated, “Well, that’s the risk your client takes when suing someone.” And you wonder why people think the system doesn’t work.

Now, not every judge is an incompetent SmallLaw boob, so that doesn’t explain every single instance of an incompetent lawyer getting away with it. Sometimes, an incompetent counsel is so incompetent, the judge is just in disbelief at first, and when the air clears, the judge just doesn’t want to deal with him.

We’ll call this particular opposing counsel “The Limper.” The Limper has a pronounced limp and a slight hunched back (or at least it looks that way, as his left shoulder noticeably droops). He has dark, slicked back hair with a barely trimmed beard. Think a sleazy version of Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot” His voice is phlegmatic and slurred. He sounds like Froggy from the Little Rascals coming down from a bad meth trip panhandling for change in the stink of his own urine of a downtown freeway exit.

So when he shows up in court after improperly trying to dismiss the judge or failing to file an opposition brief, what the judge sees is not a professional who has passed the State Bar and thus really has no excuse for disregarding the law, but instead a cripple in a bad suit who apparently has a speech impediment and who looks two days away from being out on the street. And so the judge treats The Limper with the same kid gloves he treats any ignorant Joe Citizen representing himself, gives The Limper an excuse (“oh, you must have been waiting for me to rule on my dismissal before you filed an opposition,” to which The Limper croaks “That’s exactly it, Your Honor”) and an opportunity to file an opposition. And yet the deadline comes and goes, and the Limper via his partner files with the court a request to yet again move the hearing, this time because the Limper is sick.

Now, a lot of attorneys would just roll their eyes, show up at the hearing and simply tell the judge that this is bullshit. But I’m a vindictive bastard with a low tolerance for this crap, so I write a written opposition to this request for a continuance, explaining that the Limper has failed to file opposition and then failed to show up at hearings in three other cases. At least the judge finally gets it, and sanctions The Limper and continuing the hearing on the condition that The Limper provide proof of his illness. And lo and behold, the day before the hearing, The Limper serves the office with a Notice of Non-Appearance claiming that he’s going to be in Hawaii for trial, so he can’t show up at the hearing in Los Angeles. And a quick call to the United States District of Hawaii confirms that actually, there is no such trial. The Limper has perjured himself, which I inform the judge.

Now, if I were the judge, I’d set an Order to Show Cause hearing on why this fucker shouldn’t be sanctioned and reported to the State Bar (and it turns out, the State Bar has already sanctioned the Limper, which would mean another disciplinary report who really fuck up the Limper’s probation). Now attorneys may misrepresent themselves to the court on time to time, but this is a rather egregious example of perjury. Shit, does the Limper not realize a quick phone call to Hawaii would reveal that he was lying?

But I’m not the judge. We prevailed, which was great for the client. I’m not complaining about that. However, I got the feeling that the judge just didn’t want to deal with The Limper’s shenanigans. If he or his clerk made a simple check of the State Bar website though, I’m sure The Limper would have more to worry about than telling his client that he needed to cough up more money.