Weekend at Bernie’s: A Case Study of Early Experiential Gaming From The 1980’s

When we were kids, my brother and I devised a game–or morbid–themed pastime–we played only between ourselves called “Dead Person.” It wasn’t so much an activity, but a disruptive and sinister strategy for letting one of us know when the other had just had it.  One of us would mutter “dead person” and go limp like a ragdoll, usually on top of or in the way of the other.  The observer to the death was tasked with the responsibility of moving the body with an effort convincing enough to inspire a revival of Dead Person back to consciousness.

We unleashed Dead Person when we were either too bored or annoyed with life’s mundane expectations of us, or severely insulted by reality’s impotence when matched against our wild imaginations.  Nothing cool ever happened, so we died. The situations were never the same or even slightly predictable. As the younger and smaller sibling, I often died in self-defense.

I dropped dead when my brother would try and get me to leave the TV room. I died on the patio, in the hallway, on the threshold of my bedroom door. I slumped on top of the Wurlitzer when my brother staged a coup on my scales practice.  I lay limp at the kitchen table during Saturday morning cartoon commercial breaks. I blacked out in the backseat of the family van if a road trip was taking too long.

I was strategic in my suicides whereas my brother would use his flour-sack weight and die hard on top of me, especially if I tried to escape. He also had a flair for the dramatic and became lifeless at the most unpredictable moments.  He’d be up in Monopoly with a stack of marigold $500 bills, eight properties on Boardwalk and Park Place, and suddenly collapse at my feet under the table.

Like a training montage from Karate Kid or others in the vain of 1980s cinematic storytelling, we practiced well and often. We honed our skills of both being Dead Person and attending to Dead Person. We learned how to stay dead for longer periods and devised new situations that would conjure the need for it. If one of us got lazy and died too often or poorly, our credibility was severely diminished. You’d be called an idiot and get the cold shoulder. It sometimes took weeks to regain enough trust to begin a good round of fatalities.

Whatever the circumstance, Dead Person had the enchanting quality of tantalizing the vast spectrum of our tenuous childhood emotions – it would simultaneously bother the shit out of and delight us.  I am certain I learned the art of the eye roll paired with a mildly amused grin because this Weekend at Bernie’s themed game.  We had never even seen the movie.

I often used the game as a weapon to effectively halt my brother’s power and shift to a mood more generous to my favor.  But sometimes my strategy would backfire and I’d

A movie about a guy that dies. No one mourns. Everyone gets laid.

be left in the grips of diabolical mad man. Using material pilfered from our father’s robes, my brother would tether me to a doorknob or a chair and leave me to my own devices. He’d talk smoothly and continue to act as if my captivity was all still part of the greater game. “How about I time you. We’ll see how long it takes for you to get free,” he’d say, while checking the integrity of the knots.  I found myself agreeing with him, wanting to rise to the challenge. When I was rendered immobile, he’d run freely out of the room to go read my journal or shake coins out of my piggy bank.

Typically I could writhe free after twenty or thirty minutes, but the real trouble came if, or when, my mother found me in the process.  Our shenanigans often resulted in broken furniture, yelling, tears, destroyed property, lame robe ties or other telltale signs of general disrespect to our home and its surroundings.  The scolding would begin and my brother would retaliate with arbitrary logic. “But I’m training her!” he would plead to my parents. “I have to tie her up because if she were ever kidnapped, this is the only way she’ll know how to escape. Look at her – she’s so small and stupid. This is a test.”

For these antics we’d both get into trouble and be denied TV for week or more. It was a punishment my parents thought fair and effective but only fueled more rounds of Dead Person to help us past the time.

We drove my mother crazy when we died in public. She would drag us to the grocery store after school and stand idle in the middle of the aisle, deeply contemplating purchase options. She would also have the nerve to deny our secret additions to the cart, whimsical packages that featured cherubic elves in trees and bite-sized animals adorned with Technicolor sugar balls that clung to pink frosted bodies. In our catholic school uniforms, disheveled by a full day’s wear, I would die in the middle of the Pastas and Rice section.

My brother would drag me across the dirty linoleum and pull me up to the under-carriage of the cart, the place where people kept their bulk item purchases and bottles of beer. Shoppers would walk by, horrified as my brother pushed the cart up and down the aisle with a small, unconscious stowaway. People shot judgmental glances at my poor, bewildered mother as she evaluated the differences between Uncle Ben’s enriched long grain rice and its generic counterpart.

In the summer our pool was a crime scene to a pair of floating corpses. After a long day’s swim, buoyed on our backs, we would quietly wait for the vultures to circle.  We’d wait see how many birds would swarm above us, like we had the power to control the will of ugly creatures.  On a good day we’d get up to five or six – one time we had eight.  Sometimes my mother would step out on the balcony and scream in her shrill, foreign voice, “Kids! Kids, are you okay? What are you doing? Kiiiidds! Don’t scare me like that!” When she would see we were fine, she’d turn away huffing and muttering vague insults about naughty children that exasperated Arab women often did, and we’d have to start all over again. It sometimes took a half hour or more to get a good swarm going.

Sometimes my imagination got the best of me. I would stare up into the deep azure and hold a suspicious gaze at the swarm above as I thought about all frightening scenarios that my brother didn’t, or couldn’t prepare me for. Knots, yes. But what about everything else? Lunatics, psychos, real kidnappers who kept stashes of candy under their car seat and patrolled the neighborhood looking for tiny girls in uniform. All of it. I wasn’t prepared for anything at all.

I pictured these winged beasts plotting our demise, fed up with the taunting. I pictured them zooming down to snatch me up like stunned prey, like flying monkeys ready to steal me away to a haunted castle.  They would viciously poke at my skinny, sun-tanned body and I would be helpless to fend them off. The local news would report “A young girl has been kidnapped/maimed/massacred by gang of vultures in her own backyard, more news at 11.”  I pictured a reporter at my house, interviewing my distraught family in a bright pants suit and aqua net hair. I thought of my brother dripping wet in his swim trunks recounting the whole affair, talking about being helpless to stop them and exaggerating his own bravery. “I don’t know what happened,” he’d say with wide-eyed shock. “If only my parents let me train her for situations like this, she might still be ok.”

That’s about when I would say it was time to go inside.

Justin Bieber: A Divine Comedy for all The Unbelibers

When “news” broke that Justin Bieber has the most twitter followers in the world, over 33 million in fact, I couldn’t have been more apathetic towards any piece of information that could possibly exist, now or ever.

Justin Beiber

Then something happened. Like from Inception, out of nowhere the seedling of an idea was supplanted in my brain and it began to grow. And grow. And.

And it won’t go away.

~

33 MILLION FUCKING PEOPLE CARE about what this man child has to say.   That’s more than 10 percent of the U.S population.  It also doesn’t even account for the other millions, or potentially billions, of people that for one reason or another don’t follow him on Twitter but hear about his every bowel movement through media pollution (this blog is not immune), gossip and rumor.  Or, if not that, they have heard the public, amplified sounds layered on top of his harmonious voice which some people have classified as music.  Love him or hate him, its a phenomenal feat. Good for you, JB. No ill will, I swear it.

So.

So. It is an undeniable, observational fact that Justin Bieber has a profound amount of influence in our current day in age, a day in age that has rapidly expanded humanity’s ability to communicate and connect across the world. Poof. Just like that. In an instant, boundaries are breaking. We, as in humanity on earth, are building our own digital Tower of Babel and unifying under a singular language of symbols: hashtags, at signs, acronyms, exclamations, imagery, et.al. (@Babel #lol)

Now let’s backtrack for a moment. My Judeo-Christian upbringing, with sprinklings of Catholic, Islam and even Agnosticism, has socialized me among a variety of philosophical ideologies, and given me an informed perspective of a lot of things, I think. Not in any authoritative way, but just as a personal lens to analyze culture with some degree of potency.  I don’t classify myself to any label because none of it appeals to me.  I prefer neutrality and objectivity. I am, I suppose, open to all possibilities and paradigms. For instance, I think it’s really cute that some have claimed to discovered Noah’s Ark and perhaps apart of me wants it to be true. Only because truth is better than fiction.

So.

So when the Mayan Apocalypse didn’t actually happen in December of 2012, I think it ruffled a lot of non-indigenous feathers. Mainly hipsters. In fact, there have been so many false starts for the End Times and the Rapture over the decades, we grow weary of such claims. But there is also the strong Christian contingent of Biblical literalists that aren’t looking for blood and hellfire. There are some who are quietly awaiting the second coming of Christ to take an escalator down from heaven. And if some people have to die in the process, so be it – it would make a really great episode of Dirty Jobs. But if He did impart on the world in its current form, what would He look like, be like? How could He unify us?

So?

So what if Justin Bieber, or someone like Bieber, were Jesus Christ, incarnate?

Before you get angry and call me a blasphemous bastard, just listen for a moment. Let’s set aside some of the superficial parallels, just to get those out of the way.  They were both born from young, struggling mothers who were beacons of inspiration throughout their life’s path. They’re both young men with intrinsic talents, manifested at a very early age. The both contain the propensity to captivate an audience.  They are both given a platform to extend their worldview and draw a motley crew of followers, followers that both bring purpose to their life’s work, yet also allow the ruling and authoritative structures to dismiss their influence and credibility. They both contain the magnetism to deliver powerful opinion and, well, give reason to their fame. And lets not forget how close the initials are.

So if Jesus Christ were to actually return to the 21st century, he would need to do so in a culturally relevant way, and in a way that speaks to a global audience in a language of unity. He would need to be a daft communicator that could navigate the sea-change and inspire within the rules of a new culture. The Miracle, as He has come to know, has given way to technology and engineering. It has given way to NASA, “the cloud,”  Adobe CS products,  illusionists and magicians, eastern and western medicine. The New Jesus would need to change the world with a You Tube video, with a kick-ass Instagram feed and a compelling brand story.

So given God’s influence as we have historically come to understand it, at any moment Divine Inspiration could shake the hair gel out of Bieber’s highlighted locks overnight. He could take his 33 million (and growing) fan base and turn it all around in an instant. He could be the conduit to a greater message delivered via satellite direct from Heaven’s Gate.

Then would you truly Bielibe?

  • Where: San Francisco
  • Weather: Foggy, cool. Highs – low 60s.
  • Consumed: 1 cup strong coffee, french press
  • Mood: Calm, quiet
  • Extenuating circumstances: Insomnia. Will continue to deny following Justin Bieber on Twitter.

Like diamonds

Day 3 of 2013:

  • Where: San Francisco
  • Weather: Crisp, clear. Highs – 60, lows – 43 degrees F.
  • Consumed: 2 cups coffee; 1 cup green tea; 1 lemon arugula chicken salad from Trader Joes; 1 package of dinosaur gummies; leftover thai tom kha soup and mango curry chicken; half of a double-baked potato with tapatio and lowfat yogurt; tiny ice cream cones from Trader Joes; wine.
  • Mood: Irritated, despondent. Impatient. Selfish.
  • Extenuating circumstances: Slept really late the night before. Woke up to a text at 3:45am that my good friend had her baby. Stress dreams.

The creation of babies is perhaps the most incredible thing in this universe. It’s like the heat and pressure which turns a piece of single piece of coal into a diamond. We go from meaningless lumps of inconsequential mass to beautiful, complex beings that illuminate light from within.

Be Resolute. It’s like flossing.

2013 New Year’s Resolutions are so difficult. I fucked it up within the first 24 hours.

“Write more, one blog post a week,”  I said to no one, ever.

It was something I wrote down before the stroke of a new dawn of a new year in order to train my brain to understand ‘discipline’ and ‘structure’ and other things I needed to make writing an extension of my routine, a necessary and often enjoyable (but initially tedious) task for self improvement and mindful zen and to “put myself out there,” if I really want to be a writer. Kind of like flossing in public.

one-does-not-simply-a - one does not simply Floss in public

Then January 1 came and went with a ten hour binge of DVR entertainment on a physical and emotional recovery. I didn’t do anything stupid the night before. I drank a whole lot on a frigid mountain top with a semi-large group of friends and watched as a waning gibbous ascended higher in the sky, and I contemplated far-off galaxies through the incredibly amazing Star Walk App.

I caught a cold the afternoon of Dec 30 and was determined to ignore its looming threat and the HELLFIRE I knew my lymph nodes would pay when I sent my core temperature to the bowls of a Northern California winter night with only a single layer of engineered nylon as a barrier between me and the chilly atmosphere. But I maintained my conviction. I layered, expertly. Camping was the only thing that could appease my irrational desire for a memorable New Year’s Eve activity, and one that required little pomp and zero circumstance. We would deliberately gather under the stars like wise elders of an era that only Tolkien or Peter Jackson could evoke in our collective consciousness.

And there would be whiskey.

I should also mention I have embarked on writing a personal account of happenings that had once occurred to me in my lifetime, events that have certainly changed and shaped me and it’s been long enough that I realize that now. I won’t use the word “genre” or “memoir” because they are unearned. Until someone else of thoughtful consideration describes the words I commit to paper as such, they will remain fluffy, French-glazed jargon with harmful consequence. They are only to be used for deliberate distinction, a notation of something worth indexing. It’s like when people overuse “fiancée” and begin to wave it around like a big penis devoid of humility and grace. It becomes  in poor taste and putrid ego, completely numb to the fact that that no one else is basking in it’s meaningless, self-realized status.

That’s just not me.

This personal account will not be posted online, but this blog will help maintain my discipline as I catalog my whereabouts and feelings and the atmospheric pressure throughout these days. S’here it goes.

Day 2 of 2013:

  • Where: San Francisco
  • Weather: Crisp, clear. Highs – 61, lows – 39 degrees F.
  • Consumed: 2 cups and one shot of sample coffee; 1 cup green tea; 1 cup gypsy cold care tea;  tomato soup and sourdough; twice-baked potato; baby romaine and spinach salad.
  • Mood: Pensive, calm, lethargic. Optimistic but uncertain. Detached and heavily romanticizing.
  • Extenuating circumstances: Sick, got a parking ticket.

And because I missed it, here’s my entry for Day 1 of 2012:

  • Where: Mount Tamalpais, Marin County and then San Francisco
  • Weather: Cold and bright. Crystal clear.
  • Consumed: 1 breakfast burrito with bacon; 2 cups of coffee; 2 cups of chai black tea; 2 pieces of See’s Candies; Thai take out of Tom Kha soup with tofu; cucumber salad; Mango Curry with chicken on white rice.
  • Mood: Exhausted and lazy. Devoid of introspection and reveling in intellectual stimulation of documentary-style storytelling and comedic timing. Flair for the dramatic.
  • Extenuating circumstances: Sick, Hungover, Day 1 of my grammatical pause. Went on a mountain hike before heading home.

Off to a pretty good start.

Flashback for the fall back

It’s daylight savings time.

Alice in Wonderland by Claire Stevenson

This means we must “fall back,” vis-à-vis turning our clocks one hour back, because long ago we cared about farms and the farmers who decided to perform farming-like activities so they wouldn’t have to farm in the shadows.  This is fair, because they reap the product of the sun and the elements from which we eat and feed and nourish our body, minds and souls with.

We should all just do our best to adjust our schedules accordingly for the place that, oh – I don’t know, is our raison d’être?

But what do I know, I just live here.

In honor of this day, below is a really old oldie – from the vault. I used to experiment poetry and prose a lot it seems.  Nothing mind blowing, but aptly themed:

The occurrence
A fleeting thought is often just that.

Raw and uncensored thoughts occur, it has occurred to me.

A projection  of truth unto nothingness,

Validated to the Creator as a reason to reasoning.

But it is to be feared, as lies are to be heeded.

It has occurred.

To distinguish truth from paranoia and never pretend.

Something is nothing and nothing is always something,

These truths that we bend.

 

 

 

Is this not a reasonable place to poop?

The extremely insignificant bathroom of Lobby Area A in my office building is home to two clean, beige stalls set side-by-side.  The stalls face two clean, white sinks with long, rectangular mirrors that sit above them. A third, extra large stall masked in the same dull hue swells into the territory that two normal-sized ones would perhaps otherwise steak claim to; its massive door looms at the back of the room confronting visitors at first entrance.

The XL stall was built under some government mandate – a space to enable the Physically Incapacitated a reasonable place to poop within the space they require. The unintended consequence of such laws being that without a regulating body to enforce the strict use of these earmarked public (yet private) spaces, they become magnets for dissidents who derive adolescent pleasure from greedy moments of entitlement, even in a situation as mundane as going to pee.  There is no such thing as the Porcelain Police, so people take advantage.

Although I am a firm believer in civil rights and social benefits for the disenfranchised, I am guilty of such momentary weaknesses. I default to this stall for a number of reasons: the number is one, just one reason. It is quite literally as big as the kitchen in my San Francisco apartment with an eerily similar color schematic.  The stall also includes a sink, a mirror, and upgraded paper towel and soap dispensing amenities. As my place is devoid of a dishwasher or a garbage disposal, I spend whatever moments I have in there contemplating the incremental upgrades needed to transform the space into a functional area for potential food preparation. The irony of this is not lost on me, but for all intent purpose lets just say that I default to this stall because it’s comfortable and is as reminds me of being at home.

Due to its size I am allowed ample distance from other waste producers and any types of audial unflattery from other parties. I can execute any variation of God’s Nature in a literal throne room of anonymity. It would take pervert or a lunatic to perform the cranial limbo necessary to identify me by shoes alone.

Who would do such a thing? A fucking lunatic is who.

With this territorial claim come fleeting and addictive waves of delusions of power. These are momentary lapses in logic and sensibility; it is the kind of childish thrill you get when you know you’ve gotten away with something and feel that rush of impish glee, like sneaking cookie before dinner or finagling more TV time before bed.  There are few moments in our adult lives where these moments of senseless me-first moments occur, so I take them, and take them I should.

I can easily identify lesser subjects in the smaller stalls adjacent to my kingdom and I judge them during their natural transactions.  Unfair, I know. They are powerless and frightened in their boo-box, poo-box. I should feel bad. I should feel a sense of pity or empathy, but all I feel is entitled pride at the station in life I have temporarily secured. It is what I believe Jay Z and Beyonce must feel every day on some deeply subconscious level and which permeates every pore of their perfumed, pampered bodies. Something they would never admit to each other, but most certainly to themselves.

On bad days when a squatter (both a literal and metaphysical) has taken the property hostage, I have two options: I can wait it out, or I can continue to a runner-up stall, stall number one. It’s like taking a downgrade from business class to bulk-head economy – quite a significant blow to my comfort and ego but not entirely devastating. The worst station, of course, is the central stall, the ugly middle child lacking any virtue from what I can tell. Even in an emergency crisis situation I will try the bathrooms in the distant lands of Lobby Areas B and C, and quite possibly D before considering this steel Hooverville, a place vulnerable to every angle of disgusting, sensory onslaught that comes with personal waste disposal in public.

Even in the Royal Standard, as I’ve come to refer to it to no one but myself, I am confronted by urine spray on the seat from time to time which I have no choice but to diligently wipe off. But when it comes to the necessary evil of shared latrines, doesn’t everyone?  And of course there have been times when I am rudely confronted with abandoned, solid content floating in drowned defeat, like a poorly discarded body bag that spontaneously bobs to the surface waiting to incriminate the culprit. Who are these debased individuals who, out of lack of morality or pride, forget or refuse to thoroughly clean up after themselves, or dispose of such blatant evidence?  Could anyone be so absent-minded?  I don’t understand this, but I don’t understand a lot about the psyche of the general populace.

But something life-changing occurred the other day. OK, perhaps not “life changing” but definitely perspective-shifting. I walked out of the RS and ran directly into a wide-eyed youth (OK, about 5 years my junior) waiting for my stall, my stall, when the other two were wide open.  That’s right, waiting. Just standing there, haughty and self-assured.  Upon reluctantly offering her safe passage, we exchanged a charged glance. Her gaze seemed to say that my game was up, or rather, I wasn’t the only one playing it.

I’ve been at this job for 9 months now, excreting in said bathroom at a rate of 3-4 times a day we’ll say 3.5 times for good measure, multiplied by 5 times per work week and over 36 work weeks…that’s 630 visits. That’s 630 times I’ve bore my bare ass to this hovel with wild abandon, blind to a conviction that I was privilege to a fairly protected and exclusive entity in which to proceed with humanity’s most dishonorable task.

Oh, sweet irony! How wrong I have been, how cruel!  I have been so ignorant, so proud, so blind. As with any high station in life comes competition.  After all these long months of feeling protected in the ceramic womb of the Royal Standard, developing some sort of distorted kinship and linkage to home, the dare I say it – epiphany – occurred that the truth has been there waiting all along. The Middle stall is the most virtuous place and surely the best-kept secret of the bathroom in Lobby Area A with three stalls.

In a blind quest for comfort I have sacrificed integrity and only Middle stall can say it maintains any shred of it. Middle: the last to be picked at kickball and hasn’t been asked to the dance. Compared with its two horribly slutty sisters, the prized territories in the bathroom of Lobby Area A and who have seen more ass than a Mexican rodeo, Middle stall remains saintly in comparative stature. By the grace of statistics and physics it holds significantly less airborne particles of caca floating in its atmosphere, or invisibly clinging to its surfaces and within its receiving lap. Middle stall is the cleanest throne of them all, to be wise.

Humility. A lesson learned in a place that couldn’t possibly become even more degrading to the image that we try to project or uphold. That even the most mundane situations we sequester ourselves to comfort without consequence; the decisions rooted in falsehood and ego and fear that always threat to pull us to back to the brink of mediocrity.

Is this ass.ault?

Picture This:

A girl you know, though not that well. A girl you know through a very good Mutual Friend and whom you’ve only experienced surface-level interactions in the most amicable of situations. Someone who you’ve always considered somewhat of a ridiculous person (in the nicest sort of way); nutty and loud, sassy, obnoxious even. Easily enjoyable in small doses but you’d never imagine being more than an acquaintance.  You don’t know her middle name. You’re unsure of how to spell her last.  You don’t know where she was born, what her parents do, what high school (or even college?) she went to, what her life entails outside of the statistics and factoids you would garner from a very brief study of her Facebook page and what your Mutual Friend relays through run-of-the-mill conversation and/or morsels of gossip from time to time. But you did go to Vegas with her in celebration of said Mutual Friend, and, to your pleasant surprise, you had a great time with her, even in spite of some mild, yet rather entertaining drama. And although most people find her a polarizing presence and a notorious trouble-maker, you’re not at all invested enough to concern yourself, or care. 

Imagine seeing this girl’s bare-naked ass, her manicured fingers akimbo, hands spreading her pale cheeks asunder with such a violent force that the skin above her asshole is stretched tight and silvery,  reflecting off  a harsh porch light on a sinister, moonless night.

Imagine her, doubled over, legs spread and the sound of your name radiating through muffled yells where layers of denim are gathered between the top of her thighs, screaming,

“Hey! Look at this!” Its my asshole!! Isn’t this FUNNY?!! Look at myASSSSSSHHHHHOOLLEE!”

None the Wiser.

“There’s no time to be idle,” he said.

At least that’s what I wish he’d say. It didn’t even have to be him, but someone, and with a great, feverish urgency.

“Now!” he/she would yell, turning a corner. Or better yet, under the guise of a coffee meeting, at some indiscriminate cafe.

No!

Better. At a Starbucks, on Market Street, during the morning rush. Hiding in plain sight, the patrons none the wiser.

Because…

…Because things are out of hand!  Or, things are getting out of hand?

I hadn’t come to that part yet. Either way, shit was going down and we had to act.  We had to act fast and use our God-given sensibilities to fend for our Lives, save The City, protect The Children and the unborn. It was 2012, a Facebook virus was infiltrating the system,

Which system? Doesn’t matter.

The system, and unknowingly po–

the reverie ends abruptly, when a tiny assailant repels from its invisible bungee cord and hangs suspended between my eyes. Meanwhile, on this bright, sunny day, I’m pushing way past the requisite mph  in the suicide lane on the Golden Gate Bridge.

I struggle to focus on my carpool companion, this aggressive stowaway. Come in and out of focus, it checks out to be a thick, brown, unhairy spider.

My breath recoils faster than a freshly salted snail.

Somehow, I’ve managed to keep steady; I have not crossed head on into traffic, or let my foot off the pedal for a moment. So all I can do is have a closer look.
It appears to be a tween-age specimen, nimble with pirouettes and back flips, and in a slow motion descend. It’s heading for a soft landing at the bend in my body, my tickle zone. The area notably reserved for hipster bikini bottoms and foreplay.

My eyes grow wide in horror and disbelief, and then I can’t help but think, ‘this is one of those “wide-eyed” moments.’ Like in both good and bad movies, or during The Real Housewives, (say, when one trashy hooker has disrespected another trashy hooker). A reaction reserved for truly shocking moment often told over drinks, read in a book or in a blog, not unlike this one.

In this moment, I feel this rush of authenticity; nothing that I am doing is feigned from social script or dramatic acting, but I am really. living. this. moment. A slice of life that is continually imitated in art.  Not only do I feel authentic at this time, but also watched. The curtains have been lifted and its time for my close-up, or my soliloquy, I hadn’t decided yet.

An involuntary recognition of irony and a James Joyce-esque epiphany grabs hold.

“HA!”

The crazed urgency my daydream was trying to manufacture, and so poorly,  was magically unfolding before me. It was not a he or she pulling me into life threatening peril, but a solitary spider, this arachnid assassin coaxing to crush me by the force of my own velocity and twisted steel.

I’ve somehow managed to make it worse. The octagonal ninja is now swaying in and out like a pendulum from my sudden outburst, causing it to quicken for the P zone. Oh yeah, I’m wearing short shorts.

By now I am halfway on the Bridge and this bastard has infiltrated past an unacceptable distance in the human to blood-sucking-Stephen-King-villian-insect ratio, and there wasn’t a good goddamn thing I could do about it.

If my fellow drivers only knew the potential disaster unfolding inside the cockpit of this little, grey Honda and the expert negotiation tactics of its pilot,  all the prejudice of mundane Hondas and their equally mundane owners would be eradicated from collective consciousness. For all they knew, I was Sully Goddamn Sullenberger.

Without due process, I snap the driver side window down and expend a mighty phhhuffffffffffttttttt right at the guy. He alley- oops out the window and into oblivion, flying high above traffic and into the cocktail of exhaust and salted ether wafting off the coast line.

I took the joint carefully from his fingertips, all too aware of how unaccustomed the motion felt.  I must have hesitated for an instant, but I coolly played it off to the slightly buzzed observer. It was just a mindful passing of the party torch, a model of responsible practice to not squeeze too hard or too far up.  It was not my first rodeo.

The night had lent itself to some bizarre happenstances and a delightful synchronicity of events – so fueled by vodka and the arrogance in which unbridled entertainment affords one, especially when that one is entrenched in a semi-ungraceful exit out of their 20s.  Everything about the scenario screamed that I absolutely should not be doing this. Not tonight, just hours before daybreak. Not in the midst of absolute strangers and weirdoes and bizarre small group dynamics existing between the friends and frenemies there. I knew it all. I knew it for the better of myself. But, it was all part and parcel of “carping the diem,” as they say, and the occasion certainly called for it.

“This is good shit,” he said, with strangled effort. A voice on the short leash of a breath held in quarantine.

“Sweet,” I mustered.

Yes, there had been some markedly great times in the past, but the stuff had often taken me too deep into the recesses my mind, down some very dark corridors and into locked closets where I kept all my anxiety and fear stored next to lightly used winter sports gear and a well sized TV/VCR combo.  I even spent a good number of years immersed in empirical study; some heavy field research with several control groups and placebos in place, some even double-blind,  to ensure the systematic isolation of all potential factors at play and varied forms of ingestion. The results were as conclusive as a game of reverse Russian roulette, in which every slot, save one, held a bullet.  The odds were rarely in my favor.

I pushed that all down now and glanced about the room in a self-conscious scan, hurriedly seeking any opportunity to be interrupted. I met no one’s gaze; in fact, I couldn’t have been more insignificant at that moment in time. The group seemed to be melding, enjoying themselves enjoying the company. That was some solace at least, the charade of camaraderie holding up soundly even between the most staunch of frenemy camps.  They all melted behind the haze and into the soft-edge glow of an early 90’s soap opera.

In silent negotiation I brought the spliff steadily to my lips, hoping that this would be a time when I could let loose, give way to euphoria, keep Pandora out of my box and will a blank in the cylinder of this cocked fucker.  Just this one time, fortheloveofgod.

Slightly moist from its passage through careless or greedy takers, I took a decent drag off the tip, even thinking myself conservative.

The contents of my exhale proved otherwise.

A sizable billow of opaque, white smoke poured generously out of my open mouth, tilted 45 degrees up towards the ceiling. The dense fog hovered there, indignant, and far for too long.

 It was spiting me, I thought. It knows.