"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves." Ludwig Wittgenstein

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunnyside Up

How could language, any human language, capture the overwhelming complexity of reality, especially inner subjective reality? How could a writer ever hope to describe what it feels like to be a human being, any human being? Buck snapped two eggs against the frying pan’s side, lifted their damaged domes above the skillet and watched as the yokes and albumin dripped to the sizzling surface, below. It was impossible for a writer, even the very best, to accurately describe experience, to ‘get at’ all its messy, sticky, slimy, prickly detail.

Just then, when Buck accidentally brushed his left hand against the side of the burning skillet, he bellowed an injured, ear-splitting expletive, and felt the burn, like a rising flood of mind-numbing stupidity, radiate outward from his red, fried knuckle. He immediately abandoned all thoughts of language’s inadequacy, settling instead, for the pure ineffable burn of raw experience…sunny side up.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Penguin's World is Black and White

“Do penguins see the world in black and white?” Richard wondered.

He reflected now, about how he viewed the world, and although he hated to admit it, he had to confess --to himself , at least--that he saw the world pretty much in “black and white,” in “either/or,” categories. Maybe that’s why he had encountered such a difficult time with his college major, philosophy? In philosophy, everything seemed to be plagued with “slippery slopes” and colored in “gray,” ambiguous, hues—even the easy questions were hard.

He had graduated with only a ‘C+’ average in his major, an undistinguished record that made him feel envious of the others who seemed to instinctively understand that the world was more complex and that it was not just “black and white” --- not even for penguins.

Driving home from work, Richard recalled that Lola had graduated at the top of her class, summa cum laude—straight ‘A’s in philosophy. The gray areas, the “slippery slopes,” Richard, now realized, apparently hadn’t posed an obstacle for Lola, at all, although Richard wondered if it didn't make Lola just a little bit chilly.

Two Timer?

“I want to tell you about a dream I had last night."

In mock protest, Buck objected, “But you’re the therapist—aren’t I supposed to tell YOU about MY dreams?

Jackie smiled as she yielded, “OK, you go first.”

“Hell, I can’t remember any of my dreams…maybe I don’t have any?” Buck confessed.

“I’ll bet you dream all the time, you just don’t remember your dreams. I could help you with that Buck, if you’d like.”

Just then, Buck half-consciously noticed that on both Jackie’s left and right wrists, mixed in with her delicate, dangling silver bracelets, which jangled like wind chimes in a breeze, Jackie wore a tiny, silver wristwatch, as if she needed to multiply by two, the time she spent with Buck.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Porcupine Teddy Bear

What kind of stuffed animal? What kind would she be?

Richard mentally reviewed the stuffed animals with which he was familiar. Let’s see, there are fierce tigers and cheetahs, their soft fabric teeth only intimating danger, cute basset hounds, with the droopy little silky ears, Bennington bears, blue cookie monsters, shocking orange day-glo Elmos, cuddly bunnies with pink noses, even huggable gray elephants, with Dumbo ears and long gray trunks. No, Lola is definitely not any of these. He paused for a moment as a silent question formed in his mind like a cartoon bubble above a cartoon character's head, Uhhh, do they make porcupine teddy bears?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt

“Have you actually READ all these books?” Jackie, genuinely astonished, asked Buck, as she surveyed the walls of Buck’s living room, three of four of which were entirely “bricked,” from floor to ceiling, with what appeared to be thousands of books.

“Nah, just one or two of them. They’re mostly eye candy, for my intellectual friends,” Buck falsely demurred.

“It looks like some pretty heady stuff.” Jackie slipped a book entitled, The Phenomenology of Mind, off one eye-level shelf.

“I never did let my reading get in the way of my education,” Buck punned, as he wondered if Jackie might be familiar with the inimitable Mr. Twain.

God, Exhausted, in Los Angeles

Buck was gazing at Jackie, as she seemed to float about the crowded, over-lit gallery, whose bright white length gave the long rectangular room the appearance of a luminescent tunnel, filled with black clad bodies milling about sharp, brightly colored paintings.

Although he was watching Jackie, Buck was—inexplicably---thinking about, of all things, ‘God.’ He was thinking that God must know every individual human’s experience—that was the price of omniscience—to follow the lives of all 7 billion humans knocking about this earth. Not only must God know each person’s past, present, and future, Buck mused, he must know the lives of all the earth’s past and future inhabitants, the dead, as well as the lives of the not-yet-born.

Overwhelmed at these thoughts, Buck paused for a moment, as Jackie suddenly turned to smile at him—as if she had suddenly become aware that Buck’s gaze had been tracking her movement about the gallery.

God, Buck imagined, must be very, very fatigued from all his watching, from all his knowing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Richard wasn’t as deep as a well, he knew that, but he wasn’t shallow as a teaspoon either. He sat at home, tonight, in the near darkness at his blue computer screen and wrote one of his little poems, one of those that Lola frequently complained were not about love or about her.

It was a fall day.
A man sat weeping,
behind the steering wheel of a parked automobile.

Outside, the wind surrounded a lone maple,
lifted up its leaves, and threw them, red confetti,
into the blue pool of the sky.

What good is love?
When it’s gone, it's gone.
Even the dead can steer a parked car.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Movie Star Haircut

It was a plain little barber shop. Not one of those shi shi Brentwood salons, all high modern, black and white, in which the women stylists each appeared as if they, themselves, not their patrons, were the movie stars, but a plain red, white, and blue barber-poled, store-front shop, right out of the 1950s, with just two old-fashioned cracked leather barber chairs, and only one gray headed barber still working.

Max had been cutting hair in Santa Monica since 1970, which meant that he had seen quite a bit of history in men’s hair fashion and had cut some pretty important “heads”. Richard liked Max’s shop because it felt safe and secure and because Max didn’t expect a tip the size of the national debt each time Richard came in for a trim, which took about 8 minutes to complete, because Richard liked to come in every two weeks, so that his hair always looked perfectly neat.

“Hey ‘George Clooney,’ ” Max jested in Richard’s direction, as Richard walked through the small store-front door, and the little metal bell tinkled to announce his arrival. “Made any good movies lately?”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baseball Tattoo?

It wasn’t in an easily viewable location. In fact, it was in such an intimate spot, that they had been dating one another for more than a year, before Richard had noticed it. Of course, the conditions were seldom right for unobstructed observation, so Richard could hardly be expected to detect the tiny etching, but when he finally did, he thought it looked like just the insignia of the Boston Red Sox: a tiny crimson colored “B”.

“You really ARE a New Englander,” Richard declared from beneath the white sheets of Lola’s bed, as he attempted to jest about the design of Lola’s tiny tattoo.

Lola smiled, although Richard couldn’t see it, “You know how I love the Red Sox.”

The sheets spilling about him as if he were emerging from frothing whitewater, Richard pulled himself up to kiss Lola, but as he did he, he thought, But Lola hates baseball?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Lola had given up playing the violin, even though she loved the instrument's taut strings and the drunken, scratchy timbre of her childhood notes. Why, she now wondered, 20 years later, did I ever listen to HIM?

Her father had said, "Girls don't play the violin." He then stiffly walked out of the room, as if departing a failed business meeting.

What did he know about 'girls'? What did he know about music?

Sunday, January 10, 2010


“You mean Johnny Carson isn’t hosting the Tonight show?” Richard inquired sheepishly, after Lola had screamed at him, accusing him of cultural inadequacy because he didn’t know his late-night TV lineup.

“No,” Lola snapped, “he hasn’t hosted it for nearly 1000 years,” exasperated, she exaggerated the figure.

“OK, so I haven’t watched late night TV since I was 14,” Richard meekly confessed. “You know I have trouble staying up late at night… except for certain nights when we…you know…” Richard’s voice trailed off, as if he realized he was about to enter taboo territory, a move that would be sure to result in his immediate skewering.

Lola looked at Richard as if she were looking at a pathetic child who was confessing his indiscretions to his mother, Why DO I love this man, she asker herself?

Despite the pummeling he was taking from Lola, Richard’s mind raced elsewhere, as he thought, not about late night TV hosts, but about the young girl from catering he had slept with two weeks ago, following the company party, the girl, "Trinity", whose name he was just now able to recall for the first time since he woke up in her pastel-wallpapered bedroom from where he had, without a word, immediately escaped without even saying goodbye.

Tonight Show

“If we could just get you on the Tonight show…that would jump-start your career, for sure. You, know, just get Johnny to interview you, maybe ask a few questions so you could talk about how you’re waiting for the ‘just right’ part, so you could explain how you don't want to rush into things, and how you don’t want to make the wrong script? I’d bet you get a hundred offers the very next day. Once they saw you, Lola, I know you’d get a part, instantly. Maybe Johnny could interview you right after Raymond, you know, that guy from Everybody Loves Raymond?”

Dumbfounded by Richard’s archaism, his out-of-touch naiveté, Lola’s expression rapidly washed from incredulity, to fury, as she yelled at Richard—a man who evidently hadn’t watched late-night television since 1992-- “Who the hell is ‘Johnny’?”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Love is NOT like this. Love is NOT like this. Love is NOT like this. She repeated today’s nearly involuntary, looping mantra.

Each time Lola padded along in her daily 40 minute exercise routine on the treadmill, at the LA Sports Club, she found it almost impossible to think more than one sentence’s worth of thought.

Stopping suddenly, Lola had a moment of horrifying realization as the thought shot through her, Love IS like this!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Passion is No Ordinary Word

Buck’s father, Joshua, a history professor at UCLA, taught early modern European history, with a specialization in what was charmingly called the “the transition from feudalism to capitalism.” Despite his seemingly stodgy area of specialization, Joshua was no nerd. He had grown up in late 1960s London where it was possible for future academics and factory workers to find themselves sharing the same picket lines and the same street battles, as they confronted the forces of her majesty’s police.

Joshua had acquired the period’s tastes in music---English rock and American inspired blues-- which he shared with his son, while Buck was later growing up in suburban LA. That music loomed large in Buck’s consciousness—sometimes, too large, Buck thought,---serving as a soundtrack to a life that could on occasion seem like a movie he watched from the last row of an empty matinee theater.

Buck looked at Jackie as she strode among the art crowd this evening—her long brunette hair falling across her shoulders, her confident stride, her shape evident beneath appropriately conservative attire--- and he couldn’t help debating which song from long-ago London she most elicited for him now, The Faces’ “Stay with Me” or Graham Parker’s “Passion is No Ordinary Word.”

Nowhere is Home

The chic, if starkly white, store-front art gallery looked out over a run-down, decaying section of town. Although the real estate community said this neighborhood was “on the upswing,” and others called it “gentrifying,” most people agreed it was not a part of town that one would feel comfortable strolling in, after dark.

As Buck and Jackie approached the bright gallery, which seemed to glitter amidst the urban desolation, Jackie bent low to offer a 20 dollar bill to a homeless woman who sat huddled in a red blanket on the sidewalk, a few feet from the gallery’s entrance. She said nothing to the woman, as she handed her the bill, but smiled a respectful smile that Buck observed was simultaneously empathetic and detached.

Later in the evening, Buck couldn’t help reflecting that Jackie seemed as comfortable on the streets of Skid Row as she did rubbing elbows with the white wine-sipping “Art-ourgeoisie,” the dress designers, the daughters of British rock stars, the lipstick laden Beverly Hills matrons and their tanned and unfaithful husbands, who filled the Gallery’s shimmering space. Jackie, he mused, seemed at home almost anywhere--- a lovely contrast to his own naggingly persistent sense of feeling at home almost nowhere he had ever been.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Morning After

Richard woke up in a bedroom that was neither his nor Lola’s. Lying on his back in the morning light, he rolled over and saw before him a young woman, no older than 20, sound asleep, her bare, rice-white shoulders, exposed to the room’s cool air by a deep blue sheet that lie tucked under her arms. He thought he recognized his bedmate---hadn’t she been one of the caterer’s staff who he had chatted up last night at the office party, the one who had said that she liked men in uniform?

Richard immediately rolled to his right and could see from the side of the bed that his chauffer’s jacket and trousers were neatly folded and laid over the side of a chair, behind which a wall of striped pastel wallpaper rose toward a blank ceiling. Although he had drunk a substantial amount and ended up in this unfamiliar bed, oddly, now he was not the least bit hung over, but rather, crystal clear. If Lola ever found out about his indiscretion, she would first shoot him, and then, while he lie there bleeding, leave him.