The Blurring of Time Passing.

“You won’t pass me, motherfucking Kia” his nasaly drone wore on…

An old western cattle drive played through the recording again. This time it got clearer. They had adjusted the music to hear themselves think. To hear each other at least, as they sang along with the ballad. A ghastly take of an old standard with a seasoned veteran’s guttural drawl croak over the twanging strings of the sorrowful corrido. A quick skip of the tune leads to another funk track that is quickly paused.

Man #1: “Wait who was that just singing?”

Man #2: “Jack DeForest with Burning Bears”

“I want to hear that.”

“You do?”

“Yea that sounds fun”

“It was, they wrung us out for breakfast.”

“As the audience?”

“Yea man”

Two minutes and thirty six seconds in, I’ve stumbled upon a couple of hippies in their dad’s sportscar? Not a red flag just yet, but too many parallels to be ignored.
The volume of their speakers increases.
A crowd starts to roar.
A plunky little guitar notes bungle through the high quality sound system.

Man #1: “Ugh, it’s so good, high quality sound, no crispies, no warbles… just… tone. Wonderful.”

Man #2: “Integrated audio. It’s a 5.1 surround sound setup with a total output of 1200 watts, built with 15-channel sound and 19 speakers plus a 20mm subwoofer in the front door and a subwoofer in the rear quarter deck. The guy told me that it offered the audio connoiseur a unique listening experience.”

The hushed warmth of the lead singer’s register danced along with his lead playing perfectly.
A playful cover with little sonic treats trickled throughout the song. Jazzy changes abound that sound like they’re being played through a kettle drum. Bluesy driving tones erupt from the lead player again.

“He really is a great addition.”

“I was very fucking impre-.”

I hit pause.

I stretched, and adjusted my shirt.
It was time to throw my own record on.

I got up, went over to my system, dropped the audio under ten, usually to about eight, placed the record, started the motor, brushed the grooves and dropped the needle. The warm fuzz filled my office with a low hum. The bass was walking us along. A piano saunters in a little high from being on tour too long. Then the slow, cracked, dull, sustaining blast from the horn wakes us up. It reminds us how serious things are right now. How much work has gone in to filter what was going to be a lovely silence broken by even more beautiful decoration, only this time it swirled like a beautiful cursive bowing; weaving through the entirety of time and space.


I lit my cigarette.

I drew the toasted crisp smoke deep into me and blew out as soon as I could. This left, in front of me, a billowing cloud of the yellowed white smoke that just coated my lungs. Here we have an atmosphere modified by the music swirling around it. I threw some laundry in the washer, cooked up a cold, leftover potato pancake, with some brisket and turkey, fried an egg and threw it all together. I swallowed the bowl of congealed protein and went back to my still-burning cigarette.

I took a deap breath and a few more drags of my charred butt before putting it down, crushing out it’s playful little ember and sitting down for more of whatever came next.

I lifted the needle, killed the motor and went back to my desk.

I pressed play.

“…ssed.” Man #2 finished. The music picked up where his voice stuttered to end.

A guitar solo trickled out into my parlor, spilling into the empty wooden space.

I needed to clean again.

I’ve been gone for so long.

“This is really what he needed to branch away from his old bullshit.”

They then go back and forth naming their dream team of musicians.

They celebrate seeing their favorite artists.

Old and new, traditional and obscure.

I pause the recording again.

We’re only at the five minute mark, and I’m only getting older.

My eyes close.

The Dull Thump of a Bulletproof Car.

I listened to the smooth jazz lilting from the restaurant’s speakers. Not so much a swanky place as it was an old pub, someplace that pulled up every damp feeling you’ve ever felt drip over you while watching a crime drama. Just a hole in the wall.

The burger squished against my teeth as I tore into my corpulent carnivorous indulgence.
Crispy frites crushed against my teeth and crumbled their toasted salty goodness into my taste buds. They broke apart in a way that left a voicemail on my tongue.

Two familiar faces walk in.
I have no idea where the universe placed them on the evolutionary plane.
Like pufferfish.
Their two cherubic faces doing nothing for their massive, imposing figures.
Both large, happy giants of men.
The one not as tall, but both of them held fists like blocks of cement and wrought iron.
But cement can crumble.
Hammers. Mallets. Cannonball shot for fists.
And they always drove that goofy, communist-grey, busted-ass Estate Wagon.

I finish my meal, they break from their coffee and we leave separately. No reason to give the impression that these are people to whom I intentionally speak.
Mikael Emeline and Wiktor Sergeyevich.
Two old friends I’m not allowed to have anymore, but that’s not stopped us yet.
They are gentlemen that appreciate a good smoke, but also keeping cool and moving quietly.

The Estate Wagon was their trademark. A relic of the cold war, this small Soviet-built station wagon had all the amenities of the modern thief. Armored doors. Bulletproof translucent windscreens all around. Radio, radar and laser equipment replaced with more modern, compact versions.
Also due to our mutual taste in music, the sound system was the subtle pinnacle of modern availability. Never too loud, but always perfect.

Lighters flick, foreign phrases that express local sentiment bounce around the inside of the small station wagon. 80’s breakdown music echoes through the cabin as the stoned pair wax philosophical and cough their way through containers full of some Kush of some type or another, brought back fresh from the Valleys. As the music rises, it is making its way through a smoking hook. It’s a modern take on their old favorites.

The titles of the song elicit laughter.

Mikael looks back at me; “There’s people that are so butt-chinny that their chins are testicles, you know?” His broken English hasn’t changed much but it’s made him happier knowing that it makes me laugh, since now he understands why. “There is not much we can do for them but they act out and the smallest flick to their delicate chins and we have a new arraignment that makes everybody happy!” The two erupt in laughter. I try a puff. Just to get a taste. Pine trees, Skunk and herbs.
My back relaxes, my shoulders soften, my mind warms. My ears hum with auditory goodness.

For electrical music it’s stereotypical but the figures of the melodies tend to meld into smooth transitions to familiar tones.
Its funk and 80’s rundown sound banks quiver at the breadth of this album. Yet it is so deliciously diverse that the average Musicologist quivers at its undertaking. It far exceeds my expectations, as electronically diverse albums make me want to get invested in a story; one that doesn’t guarantee me the hero’s or villain’s outcome. Sure, robots are fighting, but while the cyborgs in the audience cheer, an older iteration of a mechanized evil doctor shows up and busts a move next to a giant, plated warrior and another that doubles as a ship from the future.

The music volume increases so that I can feel it move through my body. Parked in a parking lot of a pub that faces a grove of trees, Mikael looks and quips “Hey guys am I driving okay?” Wiktor and I chuckle at the guffaw. I shout and startle them both with , “HEY MAN YOU SHOULD STOP MAN THERE’S TREES COMIN MAN” The chuckling evolves to chortles and laughter. Mikael plays along “WHOA MAN” he begins to pantomime panicked wheel spinning with his hands and expressions

Laughter fades. Silence.“Man if you drive into that bush man, I am going to get out of this car, man.”

I don’t know if I want to.

Wiktor proceeds to sneeze profusely.

He then proceeds to start talking about a story about a racist white rapper and a legendary west-coast figurehead having a peaceful discussion about race relations and their own experiences in the rap game. The brazen nature of both men causing raised eyebrows all around.
Everybody is educated to this interview existing.

Wiktor’s turn on the stereo.

Music plays in the background, building and wyrming through the zeitgeist with the trappings of electronica. Mikael starts to pack a smoking pipe, an act which puzzles Wiktor.

“Are you loading another bowl”

“Yea”

“What’s wrong with you”

Slience

“That doesn’t answer my question”

“You know what’s wrong with me”

“What the fuck do I get for that? I don’t know. Must be some kind of bonus.”

“Nothing, here, hit this”

“Fine.”
Hits bowl

They discuss trade equipment after fiddling with the audio, with blasts of saxophone, trumpets and orchestras sounding in the distance.

Electronic warping sounds take over. Distance cathedral reverb floats in the distance/

“Pass me that lighter”

Dubstep blasts over the speakers that have since been turned down, moderately governing the power of the music.

Laughter

“Kids that brings me to my first point; don’t do Mally”

Mikael chuckles

“Don’t do Molly?”

“Molly doesn’t do shit to me”

Wiktor chimes in “I’m doing it for my first time this weekend.”

“Good Luck”

“Save yourself, it’s too good,”

I pipe up, “Is this it? Is this all we got?”

They fall silent.
Mikael clears his throat.

Wiktor nods and straightens up, blinking and composing himself before beginning to speak.
“There are some rumblings about changes. We are being considered for advancement. This will create a problem for our relationship. A roadblock. Temporary.”

“Good.” I replied. “I need to go finish some work, let me know if you hear about an outfit with a LOT of assets going missing” I began to get out of the car.

“We will do our best. Stick to short messages and take this-“
He handed me a small, older cell phone.
“Hard to track, spooky GPS signal.”

I smiled. “Always looking out for each other”

Skirtingi pasauliai
<Different Worlds>

I made my way out into the damp night.
I got in my car, and went home.
I sat down at my desk.
I lit my cigarette.

And pressed play.

The First Recording.

The first ten minutes are consistent with ambient noise.

A high-performance vehicle’s engine whines in the background.

Sounds of contemporary jazz guitar flicker through the recording.

The ambient background fuzz is reminiscent of a vehicle travelling down the highway.

There are two men talking in this audio. Both have voices that are punching out of their weight class.
Low and slow in register, their vocabularies are barely above high school, but efficient in message.

Metallic dragging of flicked lighters, burn sizzles, coughing.

The men are smoking, chuckling, relaxing, and here’s hoping they’re talking shop.

Man #1: “Yea?” he grunts

Man #2: “Well, think about it- right now it costs me about $40-45 bucks to fill my tank, but I get about 220 miles per tank, which is like fucking bad like, right now I’m like, averaging like fourteen or fifteen right now.”
This man honks in his plucking midwest droll.
Man #2: “Because I just, like…” He chuckles through his nose, “…I just don’t know how to not drive like an asshole.”
(Here both men choke out chortles of stoned laughter.)
Man #2: “That’s what it comes down to. I can’t help myself from driving like an asshole.”

A twangy country ballad bungles through the stereo, riding cattle through a pasture of bass melodies that give way to plucked banjo cacti that speckle the ground of our deserted imaginations. Rawhide echoes off the soft leather of what I can pretty much gather is a luxury coupe. The sound dampening and the muffled high-output motor are very clearly not cheap. All this I gather just from the sound.

Man #1: “I mean that’s why I really like the dock hand, because even if I get a turbo, my gas mileage is only going to go to 15-18, and I might be able to finagle twenty. Right now it’s 24-26 and that’s with me beating on it to make our deadlines.” His voice almost hiccups over the speakers.

I can tell from their accents that these guys are from up north. Wisconsin, Michigan, who knows, maybe even Canada.
Borders these days are ripe for the picking.
I let them continue.

Man #2: “Well right now I can do 25 on the highway, right now I’m doing 25-26, 27 right now on average, I’d say.”

Man #1: “I don’t know if I could ever do, well, like, I-I’ve never done long distance driving with it for daily use, so I don’t know if highway…”

The second man cuts him off
Man #2: “…You’ve never had it on the highway for more than an hour?”

Man #1: “Nope. It forces me to make a unique route. Stops for gas, shops, knick-knacks, little shit like that followed by a quick sprint on the highway. Sure, it uses more gas but I know exactly who’s tailing me…”

I stop the tape.
I need a cheeseburger, a beer and a cigarette.
Maybe even something with whiskey.

Mark; One minute, twenty-two seconds.

Lord Anything the Eighth

A door opens.

I was ready for the cardboard box in front of me. The dry cracked skin showed signs of age like anything would; with wrinkles and cracks and a variety of stains. This was the last box that was pulled from the last storage unit left in his name.

The last one.

Not the first one that was booby-trapped with plastic explosive.

Not the second, third or fourth one that had the same.

The fifth held an art collection and a unique set of tools that were kept with evidence of rampant attempts at fouled forgeries.

The sixth held a unique set of tactical equipment.

The seventh was a massive buried container full of ingredients that looked like it was supposed to act as the companion to the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Chemicals, food rations, hardware, and an almost endless supply of ammunition. To refer to it as one massive buried container was an understatement. We would come to find out that it was actually a network of them, buried around the whole plot in a pattern that was reminiscent of hieroglyphics or cuneiform or Viking runes, but done so in a way that appeared to be their own prepared homage to a personal take on all of the ancient forms. In total the 8th container wasn’t ONE container. It was equal to four industrial warehouses of munitions, consumables and equipment.

None of them held anything that was hot or dirty or traced back to criminal activity. It was all custom made in the little network of this bastardized take on the individual’s underground industrial park.

Relatively smaller than a house, this was a big break in locating the individual as every ‘box’ or ‘container’ we located served a different purpose.

This eighth and seemingly, hopefully, the final box, would hold what we needed to pull another shitty, bile-soaked lead out of our collectively-stuck rectum of a case.

It wasn’t even a case anymore.

It was a mess.

Calling in a fixer was too high profile, and there was nobody to kill yet so you couldn’t call a hitman.

It was just a big, complicated, difficult, spread-out mess.

Like when a toddler would have a temper tantrum that led to it shitting or pissing on the carpet and stomping in it with all of their misplaced anger at the lack of care or understanding of the world.

Only instead of brown spots on the wall, the fucking kid exploded.

I began to examine the box.
EOD and HAZMAT gave the all-clear for the last feds to see what was inside.

Before they were called off and retreated from the case like prey that got away.

This was the only bit that a private contractor with high enough clearance was allowed to see.

And so I examined it. Checked the tape. Checked the box. Checked everything. We even ran the fucker through an ultrasound. Looked like files and some basic tech. Our eyes collectively grew in the lab.

Intel.

Hopefully a lot of it.
Hopefully enough to give us something, anything.
A scent for our hounds to hunt.
Anything.

Anything.

I crack the seal of the tape, revealing a stale mildew smell that exists around old canvass and harder cloth. The cardboard sounded off its age as the creaking corrugating cracked to life.

Now open, we could see the manila envelopes.

One had several invoices and shortlist financial records.

Another contained a large sum of old cash.

The third held a cloth-wrapped group of instruments.

In it were two pieces of recording equipment, both handhelds of varying times and theatres, with no doubt a treasure chest of important audio.

But it could also be nothing.

Answering machines full of nonsense, or worse, code.

Deciphers were expensive and more often than not a rouse or distraction meant to waste time.

Both took common power supplies so there was no reason that Bensington couldn’t wrap his goofy little mind around prepping it for review and investigation.

Quickly bagging and sealing the samples and envelopes, I returned to my bland little shitbox and puttered my happy ass back to the office.

Maybe now I’d get some answers.

Hopefully they would come with a massive cheeseburger and much needed rest.

But until then, I needed more than hopes and dreams.

I closed the door behind me.

Finire il primo

An Update

So after what will most definitely be the most interesting and chaotic time of my life thus far, I’ve kept detailed notes, and made every attempt where possible to record high quality audio and video. What follows is an account of what will possibly be the most slightly-above-average piece of post-modern American literature that will have little to no foreseen affect on the world population as a whole. Strap yourselves in, we’re going to go do doughnuts in the cornfield of mediocrity. The names and places have been slightly modified to protect the innocent, with records and audio files going back five years, spanning the end of a decade that was marred by social and political turmoil.

I hope you’ll follow along as this is one of the most basic things that a writer can do. Write something usual. Something that contains primary source information to give an idea about the social interaction between a human and it’s surroundings on planet earth. No further details will be provided.

Spring Twilight West of Chicago

Anybody that passes it is struck by the neon glow. It’s either that or the massive, illuminated, black and white sign against the aged teal siding. It looks like a regular house. While people have seen shadowy figures in the attic windows long after close, it doesn’t stop them from cramming into every last space for an evening of improvisational comedic spectacle.

The main floor is loud with modern music, clattering ceramic cups, blasts of laughter from younger conversations. Conversations splattered with swearing that would make more sense coming from a wind-up infant, in a backseat safety restraint, that just witnessed their parents’ unfavorable reaction to a rule violation or a traffic anomaly. Like percussion in avant-garde composition, it pops out of place to the amusement or displeasure of any witness. A few befuddled looks, raised eyebrows and unwilling yet eavesdropped chortles spark self awareness and the young table quiets before shuffling out, eager to beat curfew and curb favor from their wealthy, foul-breathing elders.

Older patrons drinking whiskey softly laugh and debate. Regular visitors join their stewards behind the bar for small servings of mixed pockets of alcohol before being expelled from the unspoken boundary. Quiet students with annoyed scowls bury their faces into iridescent screens. The benefits of their higher education will no doubt be them learning to avoid studying in busy places with frequent social gatherings. They gather their papers and expensive technology while beating a hasty evacuative path.

Young couples failing to disprove Einstein’s theory of relativity stretch their love’s tolerance with the disdain for the coming day’s responsibilities. They leave shortly after, grasping to each others essence before being captured by the departing moment of affection, giggling under the forming cloud drizzle that will eventually envelop the remaining hours of the day.

I return for the parade- An almost never ending procession of characters, kooks and inebriated performers departing from the second level of the locale. An event space for neighborhood shows and open source performances. By its very definition or by default, it harbors the feeling of locals only.

Bohemian hippies, tattered stoners, punk drunks, foreign expatriates and folksy elders meander through the back of the house, wobbling over each other and spilling into the rainy exterior. Together they form a barrier, protected from evil and intolerance, their weapons of sly searing quips and thick unique tobacco smoke protecting them from any interference or displeasure. I depart with handshakes and embraced salutations before making my own way of egress.

It’s almost one am on a Thursday night.

I’ve found my way back to the 24 hour diner connected to the bowling alley.

It’s late so there’s an older gentleman and besides him it’s just the people who run the place. My seat at the bar is right in front of the assembly station in the cook line. The orange glow of the rolling toaster keeps a relaxing tempo and beams a dull warmth in my general direction. Its paint is chipping off.

Most of the hardware is worn to a beaten down dull grey. The kitchen surface is riddled with dents, yet it’s all clean. The potato pot sits on a burner whose blue orange flicker matches the toaster’s tempo.

Its scorched and warped bottom edge reminiscent of a gas valve left wide open and a new cook’s attention not left open enough. The ivory platters and mounted set of bovine horns rest on high, basking in the warm glow that bathes the restaurant amidst a cold, raining evening’s backdrop. There are people out tonight starving somewhere cold and damp, and I’m not one of them. I’m lucky, sure, but I’m not without sin nor hardship. I feel so inclined to relish in that.

The waitress is on tempo with the place too, her metronomic passing almost hypnotic while completing her rounds over smooth surfaces and collecting the dirty platters, shuffling them off into a basin for the dishwasher to collect and blast with searing hot clutched molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. A few old arches line the place’s backsplash, bouquets of pink flowers nestled in solid colored tea pots. I order my usual, a grilled cheese with pickles and a perfect scrambled egg with some glorious bacon. Usually it comes with golden cheese-welded potatoes and a lemon/lime soda.

Twenty minutes later, I’m stuffed to the gills and praying I don’t pass out and fall out of my chair from the blood redistribution to my body’s digestive process.

Warm, fulfilling digestive purposes.

Delirium setting is a pretty good sign that it’s time to go home. I shuffle off and clunk into my rusty early millenium Buick sedan.

It’s just another day in paradise.

The Edge of the Wood

This is a piece that I wrote and performed at my local open mic night. It took place at a small coffeehouse that I haunt in Illinois, in southwest Chicagoland, in the western suburbs, south of the rivers and canals, and northeast of the westernmost Cook County forest preserves. I went early to work with the group that runs the sound and lights so they could help, as this is a team effort. The items in brackets are queues for the lighting team to flicker the spotlights on the reader to simulate lightning. The writing in braces are for the MC or person reading the story. The plain text is to be read to the “audience”. The “columns” to which I refer in the first paragraph are the way the audience is grouped at this event, if you wish to adapt this story for your own audience, just split them as such; two thirds to one third, rain to thunder, respectively. I attempted to read it in a tone similar to how I thought Tom Waits might read modern, hardboiled, noir thrillers.
Now please, enjoy, either in public, or at a house with friends. 

{First, I want to start by asking for complete vocal silence, this can’t have any talking. I would also like to ask for some audience participation, left and center column, I want you to either rub your open hands together or lightly snap your fingers. You are my rain bringers. Right column, anytime the lights flash, I want you to pause, then stomp your feet with your heels a few times. You don’t have to keep going through the whole story. You will know when we begin.}

Now, I want to welcome you to… The Edge of the Wood. [Lightning]

[Lights down low]

He was in the house when he saw it.

The first time.

Sipping his tea, he glanced out of the kitchen from his aging wooden English cottage.

Through the condensation of the old window, past the cracked paint of the sill and into the lush backyard, he watched the fine rain mist down from the billowing clouds above.

It was almost dancing in the shadow of the day, against the rickety old fence, gyrating with every passing of the wind, returning to its dim structure of light with every lull.

The little flint of green flickered, with each flicker following every bolt of lightning as it sprinted from the sky.

[Lightning]

The mellow sunlight, that could, just barely, ease its way through the foggy sky, bounced from the falling mist and transformed the outside air into a soft golden glow. It illuminated the arborous wall that bordered the yard…

…from the darkened Wood.

The underbrush was visible thanks to the occasional cracks of light.

[Lightning]

Not enough to count the blades of grass or the groups of weeds he’d neglected.

Neither squirrels, chipmunks, nor even wayward foxes, sought the dry cover of his lawn, nor the snacks of dandelion weeds, nor the dry home of the billowing trees or thick bushes in the yard.

It was completely empty.

All of it.

Except for that faint… little… flickering… green glow.

His curiosity slowly lifted him from his seat and goaded him to look closer.

Flexing wooden panels creaked under his feet as the soles rolled over the old maple planks that layered the base of his cottage, glossing with their amber varnish.

He did so, as you do, when you’re curious, eager not to lose any details of what he had seen.

He was very quiet, even though nobody was around.

[Lightning]

He was careful, not to make even the faintest sound.

Every creak sent a small shock through his nervous system, fearful any movement or sound could disturb the oddity that he had witnessed.

Traversing the wooden floor, he made his way to the larger window in the living room, the one that faced the yard. He slowly eased his knee onto the cushion of the couch and let his weight lightly crease the plush leather. There, he thought, he would have a better vantage point of the glow, that same green glow, now slowly coming into his sight line.

[Lightning]

When he got to the window, the sky had darkened further, and the glow began to pulse, slowly at first, but increasing in frequency the longer he stared at it.

[Lightning]

His heart rate quickened at the thought of this glow having a mind of its own.

He felt that he knew that it was watching him.

Which was silly. These dark clouds were playing with his fragile old mind.

He scoffed at himself.

Fragile, Ha!

He was far from finding himself fragile.

But what was this thing? He had to know more.

He had to see it for himself.

He nimbly shuffled, for his age at least, away from the window, across to the living room to the closet, where his raincoat hung on its hook, draped above where he left his galoshes to dry.

Slowly and deliberately, he slid on his rain boots and donned his jacket. Grabbing an umbrella and a flashlight, he made his way outside. Having two things to grab onto made him feel safer. Having something in his grip was a morale booster. The confidence in being able to bludgeon anything that came after him, was irreplaceable.

Unfortunately, having one’s hands full can make opening and closing a door difficult.

Especially now, with his hands.

Especially now, with his balance.

Clutching the umbrella and torch with one hand, he made his way to the door and out into the foggy world. He carefully stepped out of the small house and into the misty cloud that covered the little village, that sat so quietly on the edge… Of the wood.

[Lightning]

His life was different now since he’d retired, and she had passed.
Nobody breaching perimeters. Nobody with bad test results.
No having to worry about what went on “outside of the wire”.
No dodging incoming ordinance or memorizing new languages.

No more dodging well-intended calls with bad news.

Here it was all English. Here there was nobody from whom he thought he’d need to defend against. Certainly, no green glows that didn’t originate from starlight scopes or even his pic-mounted ANPEQ2, but fifteen years away from the job, those instincts to defend still returned to him, flowing through his blood. Blood he’d seen… decades before.

[Lightning]

Turning around the left corner from his door, he peered from under his hood as the water dropped from the shaking of his Umbrella, his flashlight reflecting off rain drops, illuminating them like sparks from a grind wheel.

His garden that ran along the fence that divided his from his neighbor’s property, was still intact. The delicate leaves hadn’t been blown away by the wind. Nor the dainty petals on his roses.
The glow was still faint, still close by.

He moved forward, peering closer with each step, the green glowing brighter.

As he grew closer, a lime colored beam projected up into the fog and rain. Emitted from a perfect circle and shooting straight up, it emanated itself into a pillar of the soft green light. The sudden protrusion of the light forced him to look up, and witnessing the green light slowly darken.

As his gaze was returning to the earthen backdrop of the wood, he noticed the trees.

The trees were getting larger.

They were also getting darker.

A faint glint under the corner of his eye pulled back his gaze.
The very reason he ventured out in this weather, on this day, at this time.

The bright glow at the base of this pillar emitting from his carefully manicured lawn.
“Oh, what fresh hell is this?” he grumbled.
He went to touch the glowing pillar in front of him.

Pulling his hand back in shock, the dry warmth he felt!

He moved closer.

Growing brighter, it drew him in, and he moved even closer.

He got close to the light, finding himself having to squint, the emerald beacon searing his eyes.

His bones creaked as he bent down, feeling the sweat on his back trickle down his skin.
The light grew in intensity, the closer he got to the lawn, fighting through the rain to see it.

Dropping the umbrella and flashlight, he extended his arms, his now free hands squishing into the healthy, wet grass.

Bending down and craning his neck further to see inside the pillar of green, even closer.

His eyes widened.

His jaw dropped.

His heart stopped.

[Lights full blast, then kill the lights, before slowly bringing them back up]

{I want to thank all of you for participating in my story experiment and I hope you’ll all join us at the next open mic, were you can hear the SECOND INSTALLMENT OF…?}

The Edge… …of the Wood.

[Lightning]

Ending the first.

Artem Nephis Animi

Fluffy pillows, twisting darkness that exist as home to Mount Olympus and carrier of Zeus.

Orchestrated by Thor to clamor ripples of thunder and summon tines of lightning; bridging our world with Asgard.

Paid their due heed by both sky captains and sailors alike; I have sailed through them, swam under them, hiked grumbly amidst them and blasted through them.

I have lived below them; resting in the neck-tickling grass, watching them dance across skies and swirl into sunsets.

I have lived above them; gazing down upon them from peaks of mountains, skittering with Marmots, littered with rocks and crawling with big horn sheep, passing underfoot as fog, blowing east to become storms.

I know them intimately like old friends; I appreciate them as new and unique acquaintances to an ever-evolving study.

They are one of the softest things from our universe that are the hardest to replicate on paper; one of the easiest to imagine and yet most difficult to personally interpret.

It is simple albeit complex in shades of depth, varying in size, be it spotting a clear blue day or swarming together, darkness en masse as a monstrous force of nature. They are capable of immense growth in a short time, wailing like banshees and dissipating just as soon as they’ve arrived.

Yet this still begs the question, what are clouds?

Well, a cloud is effectively an aerosol, a colloidal suspension of particles dispersed in air or gas, consisting of a visible mass of minute liquid droplets, frozen crystals, or other particles suspended in the atmosphere of a planetary body. Water or various other chemicals may compose the droplets and crystals wavering mid-air.

On our vast blue Earth, clouds are formed because of saturation of the air when it is cooled to its dew point, or when it gains sufficient moisture, via water vapor, from an adjacent source to raise the dew point to the ambient temperature.

They are able to be observed by humans. Seen in the Earth’s tier of sky that contains the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere- the 43-mile deep layer of the earth’s atmosphere where we live. We are effectively viewing that which is the wild blue yonder when we view clouds.

Since Nephology is the science of clouds, included in a physics branch of meteorology, it behooves us to observe clouds situationally. We must visually experiment from our internal perspective and express that externally. Nobody can just pick up a picture of a cloud, duplicate it and be able to draw any or all clouds. Clouds take time to master and need to be drawn from personal experience in a direct setting where the effective negative-spatial-interruption of the cloud against its wild blue ponderous background is paramount in both composition and interpretation. Not to say one must only create art for the sake of art, but learning to draw anything from pictures, without context, removes the personality from the work. In this case, it removes the personality, science and categorization from the cloud. These white splashes, seated among their gray-scale outlines, can be categorized into species with behaviors that change weather and can express foreshadowing given the composition of the work. So yes, they do have personalities and yes, that personality is vital to its reflection in the composition of its interpretation in any given space.

When I look at them, I see ever-changing shapes. These are transformative figures of daily images, both readily accessible visibly and stored in the subconscious for later observational recurrence. Anytime we see an abstract or organic shape, there can be something imprinted on our psyche that is visibly available within the boundaries of the picture. Similar to a word search or an eye exercise that presents a picture jumble, this is the visual equivalent of the adage “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”

Presented with seemingly nothing, a collection of particles can grow to an infinite array for the understanding of gaseous vapors that fill the sky, expelled from powerful storms and machines, via pipes and smokestacks, or cans and nozzles. This opens the typical sunny and blue-sky day to a crackling thunderstorm, a roaring forest fire, or seaside breaking gray matter; revealing the peace and serenity of dusk’s resting of time amidst the bruised and bloodied sky, revealing the last of its reds and promising a clear future with its purples.

But wait! Let us not grow lazy or over-eager at simplifying art into colors!

Amidst the color-painting modes of Renaissance color, be they cangiante, sfumato or unione, there is another way to reflect these shapes if they were void of color. Were these images to be monochromatic and told through only the spectrum of black and white, we are given a way to practice the most perfect form of chiaroscuro. The mode, developed by the greats Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt, gives us light, shadow and therefore, depth. The underlying principle of this practice being the solidity of forms; achieved by the light falling against the object. Clouds are visible because the lights of the sun and moon bounce about, giving us the white shadowed picture against the blue reflection of the sea and deep darkness of space. Imagine a stone or stalactite near the opening of a cave; being slapped with light before darkness falls, like a disturbed wave, deeper and deeper into the pits of the earth, failing to return with a reflection of the backdrop that is the emptiness beyond.

I pity the depths of the Mariana trench, for it will never know the clouds that we see.

As a caveat, I pity clouds, for they will never know the fates we wish upon them, like riding them in search of treasure, or grasping armfuls of them to harvest their soft, marshmallow mousse.

A fickle relationship is the one we have with clouds.

Their absence leaves us dry with drought.

Their abundance leaves us battered and broken after hurricanes and tornadoes.

We leave them damaged or broken with our fires and chemicals.

We grow our crops with their reign over the sky.

Yet, all of these instances come from necessity.

Alas, we cannot summon them with hammers of the gods or control them with magic wands.

We have but control over ourselves.

We wield our graphite, inks, charcoals and papers with not wands or hammers, but rather with our pencils, quills and brushes.

I ask you to take back the majesty of the sky when you draw pictures of your worlds.

Take a part of it with you everywhere you go.

Just don’t forget, go draw some clouds.

The Little Coupe That Did.

What started out as a hate letter, disguised as a come-to-Jesus request to pavement-vehicle manufacturers, had turned into a commentary on business and production. I effectively played to emotions that don’t exist in corporations- passion or duty. Personally, I view vehicles as machines. In our American market, they are more than that. They are fashion statements or toys, that end up being over-hyped garbage or overly-engineered sculptures that sit and lay dormant as some rich person’s trophies. The way we treat our cars is horrific, with people lacking the desire needed to learn their construction and/or operation inside and out. They end up as dirty, rusty, over-priced piles of garbage that pollute our planet, endangering or ruining our lives. Why do I even feel obligated to fight for a market or product that shits on the consumer time and time again? I have no idea. I have no answer for that question. It’s only memories. Faint glimpses into what once existed. I remember what you’ve got in you, but you’ve lost it.

But lost what exactly?

A bare-bones, stripped, affordable two-door coupe. It had no comfort items, only the bare essentials- A chassis, a bulletproof motor, a five speed gearbox, suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the body lines were simple, smooth and clean. It had no HVAC, only one good speaker, no power steering, the sunroof didn’t work, and it had holes everywhere. I made memories, both good and bad, with that car. Thinking about it makes me smile, choke up and become infuriated. I made a budget of five thousand dollars and stayed well under it. I beat on it, babied it and conducted meatball cosmetic surgery on it just to have it on the road. I learned how to drive properly in it, both on the racetrack and off. It took all my spare time, bringing me closer to religion.

We fit together well.

I loved that car.

Part of loving something means thinking that you can’t and won’t find something like it ever again; which I don’t think I will. Ever. They aren’t produced like that anymore and all the used versions, that are cosmetically clean, are too expensive or beat to shit. Faulty mechanically, I would never even consider owning again. It was a once in a lifetime sort of car situation. Everything from the way the sun bounced off the Electron Blue Pearl paint and the rumbling growl that came flowing out of the exhaust pipe whenever she woke up, to the crunch she made as the drunk child in front of me slammed on his brakes. Much like the one she made when the elderly man who wasn’t paying attention came flying through the red light and slammed into me while he exited the highway. She was too far gone, completely totaled.

*Snap*

Just like that, Jasmine was gone. I came to realize that even though she put me through the ringer of mechanical bullshit, I loved her. My eyes still well up about it.  I couldn’t appreciate what she was or enjoy the thousands of dollars I got from the accident to find another like her. She was just gone. I couldn’t believe it. I had grown attached to a machine. Albeit, a machine that had seen a gorgeous track in Wisconsin and late-night highway fly-by’s of “east 290” into the city and lower Wacker shenanigans. I took her on slow and peaceful strolls through twisting forest preserves, letting the random drizzle of rain glance off her, washing the dirt from her surface so the sun could dance in her metal flake.

As long as car companies continue to behave the way they do, producing driving apparatuses with the same quality controls as crappy Chinese toy makers, by appeasing the moderately wealthy with extensively useless options and unreasonable size? We will never know a decent affordable road car coupe.

So, on the off chance one of those high-ranking officers of one of these organizations sees my words?

Here goes;

I want you to over-engineer a simple 4 cylinder turbo engine so it’s reliable and rowdy. Bond it to a 6 speed manual transmission. Stick it in a strong coupe frame. Put a firm yet comfortable suspension in it with 4 wheel disc brakes. Wrap it in smooth body lines. Cup our butts with simple, manually-adjustable leather seats that can accommodate a tall person. Give us power windows, a lightweight HVAC unit and keep it under 3,500 lbs dry. Make it a driver’s car. Not an end-all, be-all, super car, just a simple and reliable driver’s car that you can sell for under ten thousand dollars. You could make it out of spare parts that lie dormant in your stock yards like you’ve done before. Keep the paint options simple and pure. I don’t care about the size or what-wheel-drive you pick.

The point of this exercise is to just show us that you still have the stones to make one good car that we’ll love to drive and fix long after you cease production.

After all, you never know-

You might never get this opportunity again.

La Macchina Va Dove A Gli Occhi & La Voiture Va Où les Yeux Vont.

It was Proust who said that the point of any story is to discover who the characters are, or may become, by challenging their abilities, their values, their understanding of the world. This is the only way you can know what any of these things are. This is how you discover who we really are, as people. Going into the unknown is just as much about seeing what’s out there as it is seeing what is within and what really matters.

You find out how far your attributes take you. You discover your strengths and weaknesses. You find out who you really are. You realize who you may become and where you might get if you were just a little better. If you worked just that last bit harder. You get a chance to deepen your character.

Adventure demands just one thing- the only thing we all truly really have, which is our time. We only have so many days, so many hours, so many minutes broken into sixty moments. You trade time for everything. Spending time with family, exercising to invest time for later, and with work, you’re just selling time. Selling time to live isn’t exactly living. This is especially important since none of us are getting out of life alive.

To be alive, you must apply yourself in the present, to recognize and acknowledge the world around you and firmly decide and act upon what you want to do with it. To spend your time living is to do so beyond the means of survival. It is your work that drives you. It is the force that pushes you forward.

Inspiration is your spark. Let it happen. Allow it to ignite you in ways nothing else does or can. Effort is what you do with that spark. Let it consume you. Do every single little thing that the spark tells you to do. Motivation is the minuscule surface friction and microscopic surface tension that maintains your inertia as a driving unstoppable force, eager to succeed, to finish, to burn into the sun. It can’t be about the destination because arrival means brakes, and you have no brakes. You have two legs and a brain just like every other bipedal hominid. It is up to you how you use them. Never stop searching, never stop learning, never stop growing.

After all, It’s not the end of the road, but where the road leads, and beyond.

As Garth Stein wrote in The Art of Racing in the Rain
“In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle.”

Focus on your road.
Focus on your life.
Don’t stop charging forward.