Friday, January 31, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Raising Teens (Kids These Days Episode 2.11)

Misty was saying,

"I just found out he'd been lying to me since October.  He said he was doing work at school when he was telling his counselor that he was doing his work at home.  And now it's half his English grade, and his teacher said he'd give him one more week to complete it, but it's HALF his grade.  He hasn't done ANY work on it.  And I can't get into the school system to pull it down so I can help get him to complete it.   I don't know what to do.  He might not pass and they might have to hold him back and I'm so scared that he'll try to commit suicide again."

And I was there, just listening to her, not really knowing what to say.  What can you say to things like that?  All our kids these days are kicking us in the shins or slitting their wrists.  Either way, they're controlling us.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Hanging with Mr Pete

She said:

joey's still doing the same ol shit, smoking behind my back.
saw the account, i'm like what's all these $41.70 charges, and
he says he's buying cartons of cigarettes, turns out hes
found a new dealer and is buying weed off the guy,

but what pissed me off is that when i checked the dates i knew those
were the days he's taking Jason to baseball ...

yeah! that's right ... mutherfukker's buying weed with my kid in the car!
i mean shit i think weed should be legal and i love the shit,
but it's not legal, and fucker's already got felony possession
following him around, so i don't want him smoking with this Mr Pete
when my kid's in the fucking car!

i mean is that too much to ask?


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Overheard at Booth 2: Lucky and Otis on Jobs

Lucky Moran: Steve Jobs

Otis Redwing: Oh God are you still on that?

Lucky Moran: I just don't think he got that liver fairly.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Overread at Booth 1: The Preferred Pronoun of the Transient Sky

The Preferred Pronoun of the Transient Sky

The sky is transient, luminous blue and black.  Some tough drives by with the windows down and the car radio blaring Ghostface Killah, hiphopping about the thickness of his dick.  Apparently it’s really fucking thick.   The tough is a pallid blond man, redneck scrawny.  You almost laugh at the incongruous juxtaposition.  From your position, you can see the tree across the street, from which a squirrel falls to the ground for almost no expected reason.  Pronouns are now impossible here, in the heat of the day, the beach lies beyond the trees on the other side of the street, yet they seem from this vantage point to be an impossible half-world away.  Young women walk by in lazy bodies and cellophane skin.  They do not know who they are.   Someone walks by in fake fur.  You wonder why the hell would someone wear fake fur in the heat of Venice Beach.  A young trans runs up to the man wearing the fake fur and throws a bucket of fake blood on the fake fur.  The man in the fake fur says, “What the fuck, dude?” and the trans man says, “My pronoun is THEY/THEM” and the fake fur guy pulls out a hammer and says, “And this is called ‘Maxwell’ motherfucker!” and you see him chase them down the street.  As they turn the corner in the distance, the man in the fur coat looks like the squirrel that fell out of the tree.  You wonder what the squirrel’s preferred pronoun is.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Drag Racing

MR: I think we truly become adults at two events. One is when our first child is born - (and some of us, not even then) - but another time is when we realize that before we came along, our parents had hopes and dreams for the future and did stuff that was actually cool.

Niall Carter: My parents were total wankers while I was growing up. It was only after they passed that I was looking through their stuff and saw that they had been environmental activists. Like, chaining themselves to bulldozers and trees and "Fight the Man" stuff like that.

MR: My mom had gone to college to study Parapsychology.

NC: Which is?

MR: Ghostbusters.

NC: That's pretty cool.

MR: But my dad was even cooler. Drag racing. He used to drag race in the early 70s. '68 Dodge Dart. He said he loved that car. I asked him what happened to the car. He said mom made him sell it when I was born.

NC: She was probably concerned that she would have to contact him on the other side of the grave.

[idea originally from #microprompt 1291 Drag]

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: Irreplaceable You (2019)

I had to read the credits because I was sure this was written by guys, since the whole premise was about how the young woman dying of cancer was trying to fix her husband up with whomever would be a new wife after he was gone.  Such a cringy premise, I mean, the whole movie this guy was whining about how tough it is to have a dying wife, and yet he was hardly EVER there with his dying wife.

She spent most of her time in group therapy, which had some great characters, especially the ones played by Kate McKinnon, who plays some brilliant roles (but as an aside, I'm concerned that she might be heading toward being typecast as the "crazy-eyed spaz"

Regardless, Christopher Walken (who has been typecast, but it's OK, because he's great in the one role that he plays over and over again... it's like AC/DC - they play one song, but it happens to be a great song, so I love the band) ... but again I digress.

The best line in the whole movie is the scene in which Gugu Mbatha-Raw is telling Walken about an argument that she's had with her husband, and Walken replies that he once had a fight with his wife that lasted from 1991-1992.   When she asks how they overcame it, he replied, "I got over myself."

Such a good poignant statement on marriage... often one that nobody wants to admit.

As spouses (indeed, in any relationship) most of the time, our arguments are more about our pride and what we want and our demand to be "right" that we forget that we are in these relationships so that both people can have a better life together than they would have apart.

In the case of Walken's character, it was about a fight over a purple couch, and after cancer took time, Mbatha-Raw went to his wake, and saw the couch.  30 years later, the couch was still in their living room.   But because of that couch, they had spent two years not speaking to each other.

It shows you that things make us lose precious time with each other, things that, at the end of the day, we can live with ... until we are no longer alive.

Lastly, though, Mbatha-Raw pours out everything into her character, which is alternately bright and funny, and scared, and stoic.  She is truly a magnificent actress who I doubt will ever be typecast, because she, frankly, could play any role.   She looks like she just has an all-encompassing talent.  I do look forward to seeing many more movies with her in starring roles.  (But I will confess it's also because she's drop-dead gorgeous ... but I consider that a plus, not the main attraction.)

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: Variety is the Spice of Life

Him: Baby, I always told you that variety is the spice of life!

Her: I thought you meant books and movies and music and places to go visit and stuff like that.
I didn't know you meant WOMEN!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: Hell is a Business Meeting


My version of Hell is a business meeting.

Especially that type of business meeting that goes on for-EV-er!  covering ground that's already been covered in PREVIOUS meetings, I mean, my God! especially when you have work you gotta get to, but you can't get to, because you're in a business meeting, and those who are giving the meeting do not care about the work you need to get to, because they believe that you can do that work on your own time at your cost and be damned what else you gotta get to in your real life!

You have no real life!

Not outside of work, you don't.  You can work from midnight to midnight, they don't care.  They own you.  You are in their meeting and they slog through their data and numbers and they pile more work on you and you are expected to have it done within 10 minutes of when you finally get out of the meeting, which never happens, because you are in HELL and the demons are controlling the PowerPoint presentation!

[originally written 2019-0121 by MR, while attending a business meeting]

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Overheard at Booth 2: The Devil's Backbone (2004)

There must have been something about the Spanish Civil War in that it has woven its way into the Spanish consciousness so inextricably that every Spanish director must set at least one of their movies during those years.   Same is true for novelists, I suppose, but this war is the backdrop for so many pieces.   Perhaps it is during the times of such conflict, wherein various factions are vying for power and the people are caught up in multi-directional winds that chaos simply becomes the fabric of life, and the need to find some comfort, some rationale, beyond the chaos is all that, in the end, keeps one with some semblance of sanity.

The Spanish Civil War is not the centerpiece of this movie, but it is the background.  The set, as you will, as much as the mission wherein all the action takes place.  It's an orphanage, a home for boys displaced by the war, and this movie is also a mystery and a ghost story. 

On top of that, it is also the standard European "child on the cusp of adolescence" story.  Europeans love those "coming-of-age" stories.  I don't know why.  There is something they must love about the impending loss of innocence, the struggle to maintain childhood in the face of forces that demand the child to grow up, immediately rather than later.  That should be (and probably has already been) the subject for a scholarly study on the psychology of Europe.   (hint hint to all you sociologists out there!)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Overread at Table 1: In Praise of Vachel Lindsay...

Just heard about this... imagine, walking around trading poems for food.

For some reason, it reminds me of the line from an Allen Ginsberg poem, "When can I go into the grocery store and buy what I want with my good looks?"

“In May of 1912, Poet Vachel Lindsay walks from Springfield, IL to CA, trading poetry for meals & lodging, preaching his poet's "Gospel of Beauty." "It's a denomination... called... the church of beauty or the church of the open sky... two rules: love of beauty and love of God.”

- Source from a tweet. Original tweeter now forgotten by me


In Praise of Vachel Lindsay

The Gospel of Beauty
is sermonized at the Church of the Open Sky,
on foot from Illinois to California,
thumbing the occasional ride,
swapping a few pithy haiku
in lieu of gas money,
and lodging, now
lodging requires something
with a bit more meat
for the dinner table:
a full-throated sonnet, perhaps,
or a villanelle,
or to be truly impressive, a sestina.

The love, the gratitude, the humility
is all right there in the words,
the rhyme, the meter,
the right choice at the right time.

Then, a pillow to lay my head,
and a morning to arise,
and perhaps a sandwich for my pack,
and I will scatter a few couplets
on the ground
like breadcrumbs,
to find my way back.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Overheard at Booth 3: One Day at the Pawn Shop

I remember it was back in '92 or '93, this guy walks in a buys a Smith & Wesson .38 and two bullets.
Which was a bit weird, and he was kinda looking a little shady, but what the hell, you know.

Then when he leaves, about five minutes later, we hear this BANG! behind the shop, so we run out there and the guy's shot himself, right in the head, blood everywhere, and it wasn't like the movies at all where a guy kills himself and he's just slumped, no, this guy was still moving, like his arms were moving like he was grasping for something, like they were trying to separate themselves from his body and get out of there.  I'll never forget how his hand grabbed a handful of rocks and dirt and just held them real tight until finally letting go.

Never could understand why he bought TWO bullets though.

Maybe in case he missed with the first?  I dunno.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Overread at Table 3: No Simple Sunrise

There is a road that leads to no simple sunrise.
There are those who stand along the sides of the road with their arms outstretched and
their bleeding palms facing upward to the sky

Silver starlight dancing with moonlight
and the spirits buried beneath the desert cactus
dance through the quiet crisp midnight air.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Overread at Booth 2: Two Poems for Business

The Muggy Room

The muggy room
Auditors sequestered there:
Digging through pebbles

Scratchy Telephone Call

Scratchy telephone call RE:
Sweeping through millions
Dollars on paper.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Overread at Booth 4: Wild Years

Wild Years

Recall the mountain streams.
Recall the stars and recall the moon
That illuminated the summer nights when you
walked upon the fallen tree across the water
and wandered off into the woods on the other side,
where all the kids from school used to go and hide,
during Friday nights after the football lights had
faded and the sounds of the marching band still played in our ears.

We were running wild through the years.
We were running wild through the years.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: The Wife's Response to WCW's "This Is Just to Say"

This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

The Wife’s Response to William Carlos Williams's “This Is Just to Say”
What the hell were you thinking eating the plums in the icebox you knew that I was saving them for the pie I was going to make for Mr and Mrs Velasquez when they come over for dinner on Saturday night I told you this but you never listen now do you, I swear I don’t think you hear me at all sometimes because your head is always in the clouds and you’re always writing your poetry and maybe you’ll try to make a poem out of this and laugh it off and all your readers will think you are a “great poet” but really you were just selfish, eating all the plums when you knew they were for our guests, well then, you better just sell another poem to some magazine so that we can afford to go out and buy another bunch before Saturday, how’s that for poetry, Mr Poet?

ca 2018-0308

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Overread at Table 1: Halfway to the Stars

Everyone at every moment is halfway to the stars.
Each moment is frozen in time and arranged end to end with each other
like the dominoes when playing Mexican Train.

Occasionally everyone stops for a moment to smile at one another.
Those are the moments just after the hurricane floods
have left everyone homeless, equal.  Everyone knee-deep
in the same water, with the metal armrests of lawn furniture
floating by our calves, unseen under the mud, ready to slash our flesh
with the gift of tetanus.

And when we are placed in boxes, lengthwise, or
our ashes scattered by family hands into streams in manicured
city parks, we sink down under the earth where the other
dead things moan, and only then do we know that

even though we were never more than halfway to the stars,
and even though we all were sucked back into the earth,
at least we had one moment where we were
equally bathed in the
light of our indifference.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: Some Creepin' In

Leave the light on, he'll be home later.

Yeah that's some creepin' in he always does.  Tries not to wake me but he does.
Big boots just thuddin' on the floor.

Well you know how he is.  He needs to wind down after work.

I just wish he'd wind down a little more around the house.

Oh, that's a tale as old as time.

Shit, mom!  It's goddam 2020!  I should be in a different story than the one you lived in!

Then write yourself a new chapter.  Change that story line.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Overheard at Table 1: Romance Industry in Turmoil

Did you hear about the scandal in the romance novel industry?

Is this the plot of another bodice-ripper?

No, it's really happening.  Accusations of racism, and they canceled the Romance Industry version of the Oscar awards.  It's all in real turmoil.

Lotta money on the line there. 

No fooling!

No bare-chested heroes coming in to save the day, I'll bet.

Nope.  Real life doesn't have hunky men solving all problems.

Sad that life doesn't imitate art.   Art makes everything so easy.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Overheard at Booth 3: Iran Protests

Billy:  Trump droned Suleimani.

Joe: Iranians chanted Death to America

Jim: Iranians shot down a Ukrainian plane.

Bob: They denied it.

Billy: Then they admitted it.

Joe: Now Iranians protesting their government.

Jim: Trump. The only guy who can stuff a grenade in a cow and somehow wind up with a perfectly cooked center-cut.

Bob: With garlic butter!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Opposite Day

A family of five, a mother, a father, two brothers and a sister.  All the children are gradeschoolers.

Sister: It's Opposite Day.  [to her brother] You're a dumbhead!

Mother: No digas eso, mija!

Sister: But MOM!  It's Opposite Day

Bother: Mom hates you.

Father: Son!  I don't like that kind of talk!

Other Brother: Since it's Opposite Day, what he means is he DOES like that kind of talk.

Sister: I'm not sure.  Creo que ellos no entienden Opposite Day.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Overheard at Booth 2: I love you but you have to change

15 years of marriage and you still haven't grown up, everything is a joke to you, you always make everything a joke and nothing is serious, I need a rock, I need a man who will be centered, someone I can count on, I've been praying to God to make me the wife that you need but I can't be that wife if you are not willing to try to be the husband that I need, why are you smiling like that, do you think this is funny?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: Iranian Writer on the Radio

... and I heard her on the radio, she's written the book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and she now lives in New York or somewhere, Manhattan, I think, and she said that she had talked to a friend back in Iran who said to her,

"We are watching in wonder and shock, a game played by two madmen.  And whatever the outcome, the Iranian people are the ones to get hurt."

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Overheard at Table 1: A Catapult of the Memory

He leaned back in the chair and gazed wistfully out the window at the people passing by, on foot or the occasional bicycle.   A few strands of his silver hair perked up on his temples, as though waving like long grass in a summer wind.   I waited to hear what words of wisdom would issue forth, when finally, he said,

"I thought I was suddenly losing my grip on the language but as it turns out, many people don't really know what 'trebuchet' means."

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Thanks for Breakfast

The Professor and Student are having breakfast of coffee and croissants.

Student: Thanks for last night.  It was fun.

Professor: It is I who should be thanking you... I don't recall last time I've met someone so enthusiastically ... athletic!

Student: Oh and I hope you don't mind that I've invited someone to meet us for breakfast.

Professor [sipping from his mug]: Of course not.  Who?

Student:  Your wife.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Overheard at Booth 3: Learning Languages

Heard this psychologist talking on NPR last night as I was going to pick up some Greek food for me and the missus, and he was talking about languages ...

apparently, mathematically, languages are supposed to be impossible to learn.  Never knew that before.

He was trying to do these studies about why little kids learn languages faster than their parents, even down to the total lack of an accent when they speak it.

But even though he was going through all this "we can't follow them for years" and "maybe it's because the kids have more desire to integrate than their parents do" and the one thing he never talked about was this:

the parents have to find a place to stay, afford a place to stay, find where to get groceries, how to get clothes for the kids, how to get food for the kids, how to get a phone, how to get a bank account, how to enroll the kids in school, how to get them TO school, and what does the kid need to do?

All the kid has to do is watch cartoons and play with the other kids outside and at school.

The reason why it's easier for kids to learn a language is because they are immersed in the wonder of a new place.  They have all the time for imagination, to feel this sense of amazement, because the parent is doing everything they can to make sure they get fed and clothed.

If I went to a foreign country and the ONLY thing I had to do was sit around all day and talk to people in a coffee shop, because someone else was buying my clothes, feeding me, paying the bills, then I am pretty sure I'd pick up on the language too.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Italy Next Week

Sometimes I dream of Italy, she said, I wonder if it's just a beautiful as it is in the pictures.  All that history.  All that richness of history and art and architecture.   And I wonder if I am ever going to be able to get out of this town and go see it.  But I can't do it on a bank teller salary, not with rent and the baby and all that.  So every once in awhile I'll get a lotto ticket at the gas station and as I'm typing in the numbers I'll say this is for Italy this is for Italy and yeah no, each time it comes up with nothing.  No Italy this time, it tells me, try again next week

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Humility

Otis Redwing: You need to be more humble.

Lucky Moran: Humble?  I'm the most humble person in the world!  There's no one more humble than I am.

Otis: Proving my point ...

Lucky: Dude, I'm just being self-aware ... or as the kids say these days, 'woke."

Barista [coming to gather their empty coffee mugs]:  Humility is like Zen.  The moment you define it is the moment it ceases to exist.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Overread at Table 2: From The Aphorisms of Giuseppe Salinghetti

p. 54

The only war you win is the one that you never start.

There is no one so grateful as the one who is forgiven the debt that he can never repay.

If you want your wife to fulfill your needs, you must first fulfill hers.*

Time is the one constant in that we each have the same moment, which is this moment NOW;
Time becomes inconstant in that some of us elongate the past, or slice segments out of it altogether, while others of us try to live forward into the imaginary future, either by decades, or years, or days.
But most of us just stretch time forward into what we anticipate having for dinner.

There is nothing so perfect as what you envision the future to hold when you allow yourself the freedom to dream.

* Editor's note: we have left the original text.  Having been written on the margins of Salinghetti's store receipt logs, we can place the date of this quote between January 3 and January 5 of 1953.   The editors feel certain, based on his other writings, that were he to write this today, he would have used "spouse" for "wife" and "theirs" for "hers."

Friday, January 3, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: On the verge of war ...

Billy: The US just killed the top military commander of Iranian forces.

Joe: Welp, there goes Israel.

Jim: Maybe not.  Maybe they'll stand down.

Bob: Or maybe they'll enrich that uranium and melt all the sand in the Middle East.

Billy: Whatever happens, you know Saudi Arabia will come out on top.

Joe: They always do.

Jim: Funny how that happens.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: First Gunshot Death of 2020

Dever Dodd: Did'ya hear about the lady who got shot New Years?

Clare O'Casey: No, what happened.

DD:  12:01am she steps out on to her porch and BAM! gets shot.

COC: Drive by?

DD: They don't think so.  They think it was 'celebratory gunfire' is how they put it.

COC: Like some sort of Pashtun Wedding.

DD: If that's the kind where they shoot guns in the air, well, yeah.

Barista [brings Dever and Clare their refills]: That was my neighbor.

COC: What?

Barista: Yes.  About 4 houses down from me.  I didn't know this, but she was also my sister's supervisor at the mental health clinic.

DD: Talk about six degrees of separation!

Barista:  I'm just glad I know Jesus.   Cuz you never know what's going to happen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Overread at Table 2: Short Story for New Years Eve

Bill had never let Meg go to the fireworks display.

They had lived in this house in Houston for fifteen years and each New Years he had demanded that they watch it from the back yard.  "It's got the best view," he always told her.

Then, usually, he would sit there drinking beer until he slithered off to bed around 1 am, and that was the few good moments, the times when he didn't grab her arm, knock her in the teeth, punch her in the belly, or force her into sex on the stone cold floor.

This year, the moment that the fireworks display started, something exploded inside Meg as well.

She pulled out the Glock from his bedside night stand and walked to the back porch and shot him.
The bullet ripped through his neck.

Bill shot up from his chair, hands around his throat.  Wide eyed, he looked at her as though he had never truly seen her before.  He staggered a few feet and fell into the pool.

Meg's hand dropped to her side.  The gun dropped to the ground beside her.  She stared at Bill's body, slowly leaking blood into the water, as the reflections from the fireworks display made the ripples in the pool look as though all the stars of the night sky had showered down upon them.