Friday, April 22, 2011

The White Paint Chronicles (#0004)


Midnight is the moment of both merger and separation, where two planes of existence come together, then depart, with all the passion and abandonment of two strangers in the bathroom of a 737 during a one-hour flight from L.A. to Vegas... when transparency and desperation reveal themselves to the few who stop to see it in the dark.

Midnight.  The time when only bad shit happens to good people, and the motives of a man’s heart are most clearly revealed.  The mystical time between times that most honest, hard-working, daytime folk never see... and most shady, lowlife, night-dwellers are too involved in their shufflings to notice.  The time when the distance between worlds is at its least, and the visible and invisible almost touch. 

And quiet voices from one side to the other are heard the clearest.


My last drop of the night.  A drop just like any other, with just one little variation... time.

The time of night, and the time I would have to spend waiting in scratchy plastic chairs, worn smooth through the years by the fat bodies of truckers, squirming, for uncountable hours on end, waiting for their names to be called, and their cargo tendered.  My job is ninety-nine percent High Priority parcels... fast in – faster out.  But tonight, a cargo drop bound for Rio de Janeiro would force me to sit with the Low Priority crowd, in chairs... possibly all night.  One drop, and the only thing separating me from a row of cold ones was the interest level of the lone clerk behind the counter.  Now, after three hours and eleven minutes and thirty-seven games of Brick-Breaker on my Blackberry, I was second in line behind a cowboy trucker who had given in to the lulling hum of the forklifts in the warehouse, and closed his eyes for good beneath a yellowed, straw hat about an hour ago.

So close to the end of shift.  The end of...

A sound... jagged nails across a half-acre of angry blackboard.  The bitchy squeal of worn rubber, dug in hard on a smooth, paved floor, as if in protest against, against...

The cowboy jumped and landed on two feet, like a live man from his own grave.  Slowly, I turned toward the sound. 

Crumpled at one edge, tilted at an awkward, upward angle against a frame of supporting pine, lay a body clothed in cardboard, like ten cold reams of Banker’s Boxes, all in a row.

To be continued...

Friday, April 15, 2011

The White Paint Chronicles (#0003)

The Body

You ever see a dead body?  No, I don’t mean a corpse… I mean something that, as soon as you see it, the words, “dead body” pop into your head like the words, “flat tire” when you see a car on the side of the road or, “fucking tourist” when you see someone jay-walking at LAX. 

Dead body.

Say it just right, and you feel like you swallowed an ice cube whole.  Say it again, and the words burn cold and razor sharp, cutting your insides at that special place between the dry lump in your throat, and your fear-shrunken ball sack… because you’ve seen your future’s end, and read the last page of the unwritten story of your misspent life.

Is there really such a thing as “Indian Summer”?  In L.A. the closest thing to it is something called the “Santa Ana’s”.  Every fall, for a few days… okay, sometimes weeks… the cool breezes of the gray Pacific are swallowed up by a pissed-off furnace, blowing hot from the far north.  It’s a time when Chamber of Commerce weather is kidnapped and forcibly replaced by highs in the upper-90’s and gusts above 50 miles an hour.  During the days, dirt and smog blows against the grain from the mountains to the sea.  Palm trees are bent backwards, and the sky for a hundred miles is turned to 1960’s postcard brown… like it was when Dodger Stadium was new, and Marilyn Monroe was still breathing.  And the nights, tinted blue-black under a ghost-white moon streaked by blowing debris, glows with no life above the screaming of the wind.

And at full-moon-midnight, near the end of another shift, a dead body spoke.

To be continued...

Monday, April 4, 2011

The White Paint Chronicles (#0002)

You never know where they’re going to come from.  They start as total strangers, then become people, who one day – whether you admit it or not – you cannot do without. 

They are… the “friendlies”.

This is a story about groupies.

That got your attention.  Don’t lie to yourself, you know it did.  Anyway, groupie stories are fun, and should just about write themselves… if you’re a writer without a soul.  Even more, if you’re a writer without a soul… who writes online.  Online, where disembodied voices whisper… saying things you want to hear… just as long as you say them back in just the right way.  Whispers that are never to be trusted, let alone believed… not when you crave honesty more desperately than your next orgasm.  Truth isn’t something you should have to pay for any more than you should have to pay for sex.  It should be expected, offered spontaneously and mutually and freely given, between those who supposedly share the deepest of bonds that could exist between consenting adults.  The mutual inadequacy… the fear... the greatest joy…

No, not sex you perv… writing.  This one’s about a different kind of groupie…  The “friendly”.

And this is the story of three.  

Those Who Know You Best

The one who knows you the best is, most likely, the one who reads you the least.  For them, it doesn’t matter how good… or how bad… a writer you are.  For them, it’s enough to know that you making it as a writer is a foregone conclusion… a given.  The thought that you won’t never crosses their mind, like a lot of things about your writing never do.  They know you, and because they know you, they already know what you know… that you’re a writer, whatever anybody says to the contrary.  Their lack of compliments, comments, critiques, random encouragements, or any other words outside the day-to-day reality that “this is who you are” and “this is what you do” is irrelevant.  You know it, they know you… therefore it must be true.  You wish they would, once in a while, take notice of what you do, but it’s been so long that you’ve decided it’s probably best just to let it go.  No point in ruining a friendship because you are so damn needy.

“Ain’t no thang,” you tell yourself.  One day, you’ll forget all this.  You won’t even remember the way you felt the first time you heard Marcus Mumford sing the words, “…you desired my attention, but denied my affections…”  And you’ll never remember how stupid you feel on those days you think this way… or how often.

Those Who Know You Least

“...You ARE and ALWAYS WILL BE a writer my friend. I see many people call themselves writers who barely write and don't even have a tenth of the talent that you have. You have mad skill. You have the disease!”
Portion of a comment at the end of the It’s Always Friday version of The White Paint Chronicles (#0001)

So says the friend I’ve never met. 

I don’t include the quote to make me feel better.  I include the quote to say that someone who knows me least, and only through a few words on a page… the “through a glass, darkly” kind of friend… can deliver this kind of unsolicited bump to a writer’s often bruised ego just when the desperate need of it is greatest.  Doubt, swallowed without hope, is the writer’s poison.  When swallowed together, they… the doubt and the hope… fill the writer’s soul with every emotion, every word, required to write again.

The existence of the post you’re reading (#0002) is proof of that.

Better still, that those words came from someone who would not know me if we stood next to each other in a ten-deep line at Starbucks, makes the impact of their words all the deeper.  And more lasting.

Those Who Know You Not At All

            “Blog like no one’s reading.”
                                                                        Agnes’ Pages
The other side of the coin.   The encouragement that comes from no one will know. 

I “met” Agnes by accident one day, surfing, on a site called Blog Catalog.  “Picking and clicking” I call it.  My blog is listed there, with uncountable thousands of other blogs.  I’ve picked up some pageviews by being active on the boards there, and every so often, I spend a little time “picking and clicking” blogs to read… mostly in the hope that others will pick and click mine.  A few months ago, I ran into Agnes’ Pages.  It was artistic and very finished looking… way more “polished and professional” than most of the BC blogs.  On the surface, it looked like a journal about a woman’s obsession with coffee and travel… which it is.  But after noticing just how many comments each entry was getting (and I mean dozens), I decided I had to find out what the traffic jam below each post was all about.  Turns out, the little blog that started out as random posts about ugly shoes and Starbucks Via drinks, had morphed into a personal journal about a young woman whose husband was dying of cancer.

I finished the entire blog, comments and all, in one night.

In among all the happy and the heartbreak, the hope and the hopelessness, one quiet line from one tiny little entry ran me over like a truck does rabbits on the highway,

“Blog like no one’s reading.”

Best words I ever read about writing… spoken by a “friendly” I’ll never know.  Life, like writing, should be that simple.