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08/01 Direct Link
Fall had brought another heat wave to the city’s residents and while developers and local boosters pitched the balmy weather to frostbitten Canadians, most of us cowered in the scant shade offered by slender sticks of imported palms and scaly eucalyptus. Tentacles of Bermuda cooked to a golden brown encircled the remains of a desiccated June bug. Cyrus and I watched a steady stream of dusty ants carry away unknown treasures from within the insect’s carcass. He kept his cigarette low, smoldering between us, fearful the cop parked across the field might decide to enforce the smoking ban.
08/02 Direct Link
It had been two weeks since the earthquake and this was the third house he had been under, dragging hydraulic jacks through dust and rodent shit searching for a reliable-looking floor joist under which to begin the process of lifting the house onto its foundation. He couldn’t complain about the extra work -- everything from tilting houses to toppled chimneys -- but the town’s ongoing isolation was wreaking havoc on the supply chain. There was still plenty of building materials, but cocaine was quickly becoming scarce and Santa Cruz wasn’t going to be rebuilt on human power alone.
08/03 Direct Link
"Is it Ingrid?" That's what the guy at the 99 cent store asked. He wasn't talking to me, but to the old woman behind me. Her plastic shopping basket was filled with cleaning stuff and some shiny beads.

"Is it Ingrid?" It threw me. I started thinking about Ingrid even though I don't know an Ingrid. Never even met one as far as I can remember. There's a song by Billy Bragg with Ingrid Bergman in the lyrics. No, it's by Woody Guthrie and sung by Billy Bragg. I searched for the melody.

I was there to buy a screwdriver.
08/04 Direct Link
“I think Rusty needs more flowers.” It was Janet who was talking. She had brought an armload of daisies from her yard and arranged them in an oval around the dog’s body. Olivia had already fashioned a funereal bed in the wagon using dark green throw pillows from her bedroom and the brown blanket from the hall closet -- the one Aunt Jessie used when she spent the night on the couch. Rusty appeared to be asleep, curled up on the pillows and blanket just as Olivia had found her early that morning in her bed by the kitchen door.
08/05 Direct Link
The unlikely couple, a septuagenarian wearing a navy and tan Padres cap and a bespectacled hipster in his twenties, walked to the base of an old pepper tree, long green strands of lady finger leaves drooping from its lower branches. The older man backed up a few steps and opened the hardcover book he was carrying and began thumbing through the pages. He settled on a page of black and white photos with text running between them. He held the book up and alternated his glance between it and the pepper tree. “I'd say the headstone was right about here.”
08/06 Direct Link
There is a plaque hanging on the wall of the dining room. Not so much a plaque, but more like a mixed media collage mounted on a varnished plank of cedar. What makes it seem like a plaque, an award of some sort, is the engraved rectangle of brass situated below the strip of bacon and the shiny chrome fork. When the waitress arrives I can’t take my eyes off of the thing. She describes the special of the day -- a local fish I’ve never heard of -- but the single slice of bacon, a single fork, consumes me.
08/07 Direct Link
Rod was one of my dad’s friends, really the only one I knew. He was unusually approachable to an eight year-old kid like me and that engendered a sense of camaraderie as I grew older. Later, as a teenager, we shared jokes at my drunk-ass father’s expense. As a young adult I admired his ability to drink through the day and still maintain an outward veneer of control. That control was something I strived for in my drinking career, but it took years to attain and then I had barely mastered it before it slipped away.
08/08 Direct Link
The Alameda skyline glows in backlit gloom as the sun rises behind the city. The morning has been bountiful. I discovered a bag of tortillas next to the door behind the building, probably left by night security guard. The corn was chewy, substantial, warming. I’m counting on a squirrel for my next meal. This one’s a plump bastard -- a little slower than the rest. I’m crouched down quiet and close enough to his burrow that the next time he ventures out I’ll snag him. In the distance I hear Rocky shifting the sage around his camp.
08/09 Direct Link
Over the burrow's dirt clod edge I could see the ears and crown of the squirrel's head emerge. The tips of his dun colored hair caught the morning light and gave the hunt, my prolonged crouching and waiting, an artistic esthetic. The corn tortillas from earlier settled low in my gut and strained my ability to concentrate. The prey was nervous, afraid to venture out. It was probably Rocky, the man from the bush below. I could hear his rustling and morning muttering. He spoke incessantly while awake which added to the sonic chaos of the highway in the distance.
08/10 Direct Link

Craigslist is a freaky place through which to wander, but I’m drawn to the “free” listings like a tweaker to shiny stuff in the alley.  Late last night I found this nugget: 

“Fridge is overrun by ketchup and hot sauce bottles! 2 ea. 5oz jars of Tapatio hot sauce, nearly full. 1 ea 24 oz bottle of Del Monte Ketchup, nearly full.  Perfectly good, not expired, just don't need the extra bottles!”

Beyond the advertised products themselves, the heavy use of exclamation points and details of fill levels suggest this is either very real or not.  I have to call.

08/11 Direct Link
Three Year-old Cattle Dog Free to Reasonably Good Home

There’s a lot to love about this little guy who was lucky to inherit only a select few of the traits for which cattle dogs are known. He’s always ready for a bounce around the house and he’ll even help keep your floors and furniture clean. Well known in his current community for his outgoing personality, it will be no time before your neighbors are asking, “Where’s Pablo?” He has an endearing way of showing affection for his people and gets along infamously with other dogs. Soft, squishy and available now.
08/12 Direct Link
Things found while reorganizing the office: A guitar tuner (I don’t play guitar), an organizer from 2002 (March 12: buy dope for Paris), a faded rectangle of green poster board decorated with old Mexican coins (the largest denomination is one peso).

This last is a souvenir from a childhood trip. I remember buying it in the Mexico City airport before boarding the plane home.

The newspaper headline big enough I could read it from the window of the LAX airport bus said, “Harry S. Truman dead at 88.” My inflight cocktailed father was jubilant, “Let the bastard rot in hell.”
08/13 Direct Link
I was lost inside an aural tunnel of voices vying for attention, each one slurring more loudly than the previous, each one achieving a new level of incoherence. From the distance a rolling metallic howl slowly invaded the auditory space, building to a low roar as the voices faded from prominence. I awoke to the full force of steel on concrete pulsing through the bedroom window. Between slats of the blinds I saw a man headed north, pushing a tireless bicycle strung with plastic bags bulging with rags and recyclables, the bare rims grinding on the sidewalk. Morning in OB.
08/14 Direct Link
The black and white stripes made the surfboard stand out in the lineup. It reminded Sarah of the cartoon prisoners’ uniforms from her childhood. Or wardrobe from The Three Stooges. Thinking of that show led her mind to other television programs from the same period of her life. They were all on a UHF station from Los Angeles. Was it channel fifty-one? Japanese cartoons like Gigantor, Speed Racer, Kimba. All the main characters had big round white people eyes and long eyelashes that flashed with knowing excitement at the hint of trouble. Even Kimba, a lion, had those eyes.
08/15 Direct Link
Fucking purple.

The descriptor can be attributed to such an array of hues and saturations that simply using the term to signify a particular color will never suffice.

Fucking purple.

I am trying to mentally construct a string of related words that would adequately describe the evening’s sunset behind the volcanoes of Bahia de San Quintín. Fuchsia and violet suggest the hue, but capturing the constantly evolving backlighting and glow, even with the use of photography, suggests the impossible.

Fucking purple.

I decide it’s the transitory nature of the whole thing that prevents a worthy account. Or maybe it’s me.
08/16 Direct Link
I went through a lifetime to get to this point. So much time had passed. So often I was ready to give up and resign myself to a continued existence of claustrophobic wraps and racks. How many years did I spend in the dusty, smoky rafters of a garage left to cast-offs and tweakers? When I was rescued from that place and rehabilitated I was originally filled with hope. I heard the shop owner extract a promise from my owner that I would be ridden. Yet there were more years spent zipped up and moved about before this day arrived.
08/17 Direct Link
Ten kilometers from the stifling plains of Colonet and the heat refused to abate. The afternoon sun sliced in through the driver’s side window with such ferocity that Nolan caught himself leaning toward the center of the cab to shade his already sunburned face. The air conditioning had given out months ago and he was now paying for his procrastination in getting it repaired. So was the dog, her shiny black fur coated with dust and absorbing heat like the dark sticky asphalt streaking beneath the truck. Nolan braked as a line of stopped vehicles came into view directly ahead.
08/18 Direct Link
I dreamt of air conditioning last night. My wife and I were looking for a place to live, at least temporarily, and a house was available several miles inland. We hated the idea, but the owner would throw in an air conditioner. He said it would cool the whole house. I didn’t believe him and the place was in godforsaken El Cajon, but the idea of air conditioning possessed a surreal power of persuasion. I imagined the luxury of sweat-free sleep. Then the dream descended into nightmare as a leaking, rusted window unit forged my signature on the rental agreement.
08/19 Direct Link
I was still sleeping -- the temperature rested below eighty -- when some loser drove by blasting Huey Lewis and the News. My subconscious dutifully latched on to “Heart and Soul” and now it’s on an endless loop in my head. Thanks. Out in the slant of harsh morning sun I was greeted by a voice from a transistor radio; “KNX news time is six forty-seven.” It’s emanating from the pile of blankets and street bound humanity camped on the bus bench across the asphalt. It sounds like 1972 to me, wildfires in the mountains and candidates in the plains.
08/20 Direct Link
It was getting close to Christmas and living in a tent under the on-ramp was wearing on Jay. The amount of time required for the daily hustle for dope money meant the sun had vanished and the ground was damp by the time he crawled through the flap and sucked down a dozen ketchup packets before fighting for a few hours’ sleep. He began putting together a plan that would net a substantial sum; enough to get him a car, an apartment, the right clothes to go back to work. Getting hit by a bus would do it, maybe FedEx.
08/21 Direct Link
I was fishing, traveling from one favorite spot to another, when I first spotted the thing. By the shadow lying on the ocean’s surface I guessed it to be a large pelican resting in the sun, but when it suddenly moved I realized it was too big to be a bird. It was like nothing I had ever seen. The way it struck at the water with spindly fore flippers as it glided toward an oncoming wave was as frightening as it was interesting. I dove under the creature and quietly surfaced behind the swell to watch its next move.
08/22 Direct Link
I was paddling out under gray skies when thunder cracked behind a flash of lightning. I flinched in surprise. Thunderstorms are possible in San Diego, but mostly they are only predicted. I thought of the puppy at home in his zone of confinement. As much as he hates the sound of Harleys I was sure he would not be happy with the thunder. Minutes passed as a decent south swell threw the occasional set our way.

At first I mistook the splashes for a school of fish on the surface, but it was hail. Surfing during a hailstorm; a first.
08/23 Direct Link
On the Obnoxiousness of Noise

While the race to make more stuff with which to fill ever more landfills rages on no one notices the incessant noise of it all. The consumption of everything seems to get louder by the hour. More planes carrying more people take off and land closer and closer together. Two-wheeled fossil fuel burners are as decibel-driven as their ancient forefathers of a century past. Talkers, fueled with ever more booze and dope, raise voices that stumble with inarticulate drivel. From across the wide boulevard I hear the latest Pepsi ad blare from a neighbor’s television.
08/24 Direct Link
I have a horror film to watch, which is completely out of the ordinary for me. Not much of a movie person in the first place -- I find it difficult to identify two hours of a day during which I couldn’t be doing something more worthwhile. Two contiguous hours to read would be delicious. Even that much time cleaning the house would be amazing.

Anyway, horror films. It’s likely that early experience shaded my view. Sitting by myself in a theater watching The Omen as a youngster wasn’t the best introduction. I remember being afraid of Europe after that.
08/25 Direct Link
I had endured many humiliations in my quest for cocaine. Having a gun pushed in my face while I waited for a Mission Street dealer was pretty bad. But this felt worse. I had just returned from a six-month trip to Latin America and the first place I stopped was a friend’s house -- a friend who was my dope supplier.

“Does anyone still speak Latin down there?” he asked.

The question not only demonstrated his ignorance of South America, but of the vice president’s similar gaffe a month earlier. I smiled, shook my head, and waited for my bag.
08/26 Direct Link
I’m riding to an AA meeting and running a couple minutes late. Dusk is falling and in the dim light a figure emerges from between two parked cars. It can only be Jenny. She sees me and immediately shouts my name though it’s been more than a year since I last saw her, illuminated by even less light in a college darkroom.

“Hey, are you going to the meeting?”

“Yeah, where are you going?” I assume it can’t be the same place as she’s drinking something from a crinkled brown bag.

“Meeting. I’m drinking a beer now, but I’m goin’.”
08/27 Direct Link
At the dispensary the display of edible cannabis triggered memories of a candy store. The friendly counter girl recommended the “fruity lozenges” that reminded me of tiny flying saucers in translucent green, red and yellow. They also looked like those flat glass beads from the seventies which made them strangely appetizing. This did not bode well for one who is allergic to pot, a reality I became aware of on the first leg of a flight to Paris. Atlanta’s airport is bad enough as it is, but it is no place for a tripping paranoiac to pass a three-hour layover.
08/28 Direct Link
The ice cream monkey has climbed onto my back. He scratches and picks nits, but I do not dare knock it off. As with the monkey’s siblings, I didn’t mind him at first. After all, I could use a few nits removed from and the playful scratching felt like a loving caress. But now I think the damned monkey is only imagining the nits resulting in strands of hair being needlessly ripped from my already thinning scalp. And the scratch, scratch scratching has left open sores. Yet the actual consumption of the ice cream fulfills a desire and immediately gratifies.
08/29 Direct Link
I am looking at the dog. He is lame, hobbled, a gimp, but he is still beautiful. His face is painted with the brushstrokes of a maligned breed that is a composite of many others. It is a striking face that can exude fear and wonder simultaneously.

The dog is never at peace. His neurological wiring cannot interface with his incomplete anatomy. The brain cannot unlearn the innate even as the body recreates strategies for movement and dogtalking. The new semaphores are ineffective with others of the species, thus he knows only fear and senses that something is always wrong.
08/30 Direct Link
“What’s your shirt say?” was the question from the woman at the coffee stand. I replied that it was the first line of 1984. She turned to pour an iced coffee -- black, no espresso -- while I waited. “1984? I don’t know what that is.”

“A book.” As she returns to the counter I perceive no sign of recognition. “You know, Big Brother, the totalitarian state, all that? Written in the forties?”

“Oh, it’s an old book.”

On the radio a caller is talking about his position in the company that is the national regulatory body for beer pong.
08/31 Direct Link
Things found while cleaning the office: Illinois, Iowa and the Iroquois nation. Well, the Iroquois nation was just for alliteration. The states are in the form of AAA maps from the late eighties. Apparently it was an era of pastel washes meant to represent state specific scenes. The cover of the Iowa map shows a combine wading through a field of corn; there’s a view of Lake Shore Drive with a red convertible driven by a smiling white couple for Illinois. The shit I keep. Iowa? I went once to watch my father die and I won’t be going back.