“W“Women are so emotional bro,” El Crow said, as he and Manny Furious played their seventh game of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on an Sega Dreamcast. He was telling Furious about a recent falling out with a woman who worked with El Crow at Downtown Pizza, and with whom El Crow had made a highly inappropriate pass at.
“T“They’re not logical,” El Crow continued. “Can’t even have an adult conversation with them, ya know? All I said was I wanted to put my tongue in places it didn’t belong. It was just the truth.”
Furious ignored this attempt at conversation on El Crow’s behalf, because even as dumb as he himself was, Furious realized the awesome, awe-inspiring, all-consuming stupidity El Crow was capable of. And he just, at the end of the day, didn’t feel like entertaining that idea, even to oppose it, and to go down that discursive abyss El Crow was so adept at conjuring.
Earlier in the evening, El Crow had justified the playing of the 20 year old game on the 20 year old gaming system by saying, “For nostalgia’s sake.”
“Our glory years,” Furious concurred.
Both El Crow and Manny Furious got lost in the past for a moment. Their memories of their teen years so big and bright and clear, they both became momentarily choked up.
Anyhow, after that, El Crow won every game. The first 27 at least. But Furious somehow won the 28th, as his three-man fighting crew of Captain Commando, Spider-Man and Hulk attained a come-from-behind victory over El Crow’s team of BB Hood, Chun Li and Thanos.
At the end of the match, When Chun Li jumped into Captain Commando’s hellacious energy column, the “Captain Corridor” and promptly lost the battle, El Crow jumped out of his chair as if he had stepped on a land mine, through his 20 year old Dreamcast controller against the wall, and started cussing as if he learned a loved one had died.
It was a late night at work. They all were at that point. It was 8:30 now. Most of the therapists who worked at Rio Frio Medical Center were gone now. At home, watching Netflix, writing political posts on Facebook, eating Popeye’s. Living The Life, essentially.
Golly, how did he end up here, Manny Furious wondered. He spent the first 30 years of his life doing everything in his power to avoid working a “9-5” gig, including (but not limited to) becoming an alcoholic and trying to become a professional writer. And, yet, here he was, longing for a 9-5 job. As it stood now, he was working an 8:00am-9:00pm job, and as he wandered the dimly-lit, spooky-silent hallways of the Rio Frio Medical Center, he was lost in his own memory, trying to find some sort of pathway that helped him understand how he had gotten himself into such a revolting situation.
He had always found work in general distasteful. He never understood the concept of the “dignity” of work politicians were always blathering on about. Sure, some jobs were respectable. Some jobs were dignified. He sometimes liked to watch Japanese sushi chefs or soba chefs ply their crafts on youtube videos. He was mesmerized by how “in the moment” they were when they did their work. Furious had read about the psychological concept of “flow,” wherein one basically becomes one with the Dao, like in all those silly stories in the Zhuangzi. That what chefs were doing, very obviously–they were so attuned with their craft, that The Cosmos were able to do whatever the hell it wanted through them. And for some reason, The Cosmos wanted to make sushi and soba noodles of extremely delicate and pervasive flavor.
But there was also purpose, and technique, and a tangible product to give to someone when it was all over. The results of their effort was clear and inarguable. They either were successful conduits of The Cosmos’s need to produce delightful culinary concoctions, or they weren’t. The customer would be the final arbirter, and even if was only in the mind of the customer, there was no real question about the results.
Furious often thought perhaps he should’ve been a chef, or a blacksmith, or even a newspaper reporter, day-in and day-out exploring the finer intricacies and nuances of the inverted pyramid. He wanted to be a craftsman. He wanted an opportunity to perfect something, and to master something, and to…just… kind of know what he was doing.
But never a carpenter. No. That was the exception. There was something about woodwork that always made Furious feel nauseous with tedium. He wasn’t quite sure where it came from or why, but it was there, nonetheless.
Regardless, he was none of those things. He was a “Family Networks Education Recovery Deliminator” which is as vague of a job title as one can have, basically, which, in Furious’s mind, said a lot. There seemed to be a direct correlation between the clarity of a job title and the amount of craftsmanship associated with the duties of that title. Sushi chef–you chef sushi. Soba chef–you chef soba. Carpenter–you carpen. Assistant Director of Special Projects and Development–you perform and generate tasks that are just as confused and jumbled as your job title. And, as a Family Networks Education Recovery Deliminator all Furious really knew was he met with a certain number of families from time to time, tried to help them get along better, tried to be likable to the families and generally just tried to do enough work to not get fired. There was no clear-cut delineation of duties or responsibilities. As part of his education in college, he took a semester of “Professional Ethics” and the only clear-cut responsibilities he even had, ethically, was not to fuck his clients, not to kill his clients and not to encourage them to kill themselves or anyone else. That was basically it. That, and to call the cops if a client was threatening to kill themselves and/or others. Beyond that, he remembers the professor shrugging a lot and making a weird honking noise when asked about literally any of the other ethical scenarios that arose in the class.
Still, ethics aren’t “craft.” They’re just things you do or don’t do. And not fucking his clients was easy enough. He wasn’t attracted to kids and he wasn’t attracted to men. He worked with unhappy families, which meant that he got to see all the mothers and grandmothers and step-mothers, and foster-mothers he worked with at their emotion nadirs. And when he saw a woman in the midst of an emotional and existential breakdown because she discovered her 16-year-old step-son had been smoking pot, it put something of a damper on any sexual charge that might have been possible in those moments. On top of that, he was privy to what medications they were on, and why they were on them, and knowing such things would give him vertigo and a migraine just thinking about having even the remotest bit of an unprofessional relationship with any of them.
Where was the craft, he wondered. Why can’t I get lost in the process? What even is the process of what he does? Be charming, help people use more neutral language when describing what’s upsetting them, and suggest basically common-sense changes in behaviors for when they get home?
That was it.
It wasn’t like making sushi.
Anyhow, this is what he was thinking about. He could feel that his eyes were bloodshot. There was present that prickly little heaviness one feels when one just needs to sleep. And his shoulders were heavy, and his lower back ached.
For awhile he felt being a worker drone was at least better than being an alcoholic, but now, tonight, he wasn’t so sure.
It was all so grim.
And then it wasn’t.
For, as he was walking back to his office, to type up the last of his notes, he suddenly found, ahead of him in the hallway by about ten feet or so, a shapely, seemingly-young women in shiny, cheetah-print pants. Her booty was perky, and it wiggled with a feminine rhythm.
Suddenly he wasn’t walking anymore. He felt himself floating. Flowing even. This is what the legendary Daoist master, Liezi, famous for being able to walk on the wind, must’ve felt like. It was almost as if he were being dragged or swept ahead by a current or a magnetic energy of some kind. And he could feel it–a subtle tingle in the air that somehow made the atmosphere in the hallway a little lighter, and less crowded. And just before he caught up to the woman she turned around to see who was behind her–
It was Lemon Crush. She smiled softly and chuckled slightly (possibly because she noticed Furious was floating in mid-air) and turned her head back around.
And usually this would be the part where Furious’s brain would short itself and lose all power and functioning… but this time it didn’t happen. This time it seemed to find another level of operation, and almost as though The Cosmos themselves were acting through Furious, he opened his mouth, and spoke. And actual words came out. And they made sense. And they seemed to make Lemon happy.
“I’m not following you, I swear,” he had said. And when she turned to look back at him, he continued: “I’m not trying to be a creeper or anything. At least I won’t be for much longer.”
Lemon chuckled a bit less softly. “So you’re admitting you’re a creeper,” she said.
“Not a big one. Not a scary one. Just don’t let anyone else know. Then I won’t be able to sneak up on any of them anymore.”
WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS?
WHAT WAS HE DOING?
Obviously he (or The Cosmos) wasn’t (weren’t) particularly adept at this small-talk-with-painfully-beautiful-women thing, but it was working.
She laughed again. “I promise I won’t tell anyone. But only if you promise you’ll let me be a creeper with you next time.”
“You want to creep with me?”
She nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“I don’t know about that. It’s an exclusive club.”
“Being a creeper is an exclusive club.”
“Being a non-creepy creeper is an exclusive club. I don’t know if you would be able to handle it.”
“Being a non-creepy creeper?”
“Because you’re too normal. Gotta be a little weird to pull it off.”
Lemon gasped, and her jaw dropped enough that even in the dark hallway, Furious could see her tongue. “That’s the rudest thing anyone’s said to me in a long time, Manny Furious.”
“That you’re not weird?”
“That I’m normal. I have dark side. I’m not basic. I’m weirder than you think.”
“You’re probably right. I should’ve been able to tell by those pants you’re wearing.”
She gasped again.
Furious continued, “I mean, those are really nice pants. I like them. But, like, look at them. They light up the entire hallway.”
She laughed again.
“I was scared when I first started creeping on you. I thought you were a real cheetah at first. But then I remembered real cheetahs don’t glow in the dark.”
Lemon sucked her teeth and gave Furious a soft jab on the shoulder. “That’s not nice.”
Lemon then asked why he was working this late, and Furious stated that he pretty much always works this late. Then he asked why she was working this late, and she said that because it’s a new policy in her department that every Behavioral Analytics Systems Intervention Information Coordinator has to work one late night per week, so that they could meet with clients after the clients get off of work.
Then they nodded awkwardly at each other, and stood outside Furious’s door awkwardly for a few moments, said goodnight and went their separate ways.
Furious went into his office. He didn’t turn on the light. There was a window in his office that looked out below to the staff parking lot behind the medical center. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was just standing there, looking out the window. He was three floors up, and it was high enough for him gaze out on Rio Frio for several blocks. The town was glowing in the darkness–the emetic, oozing yellow of the street lamps, the weird excitement of the whites and blues of some of the businesses in town, the warmth of the porch lights on the houses. It was mid-winter, and the trees were dead, but there was enough light to see their dark skeletons. It was a calm night, a gentle night. He stared out into the clear, windless night for an indeterminable moment of time. Time ceased to exist suddenly. All there was was the vortex of the void.
He didn’t know what had just happened, but as he looked out that window, there was a serenity he hadn’t felt in some time. He was as calm and rooted as the dead trees, and, in an inarticulate way, just as dark and shadowy. But suddenly things seemed possible. He wasn’t sure what seemed possible. Maybe nothing, but possibility itself was possible. But he didn’t feel trapped and anxious, the world, for that momentless moment seemed to stop squeezing him for life.
But, still, all he could think to do was take a deep breath to breath in all that possibility, sigh to let as little of it out as he could, return to Time itself, and get his notes done.
Fat Milo’s apocalyptic moonbeam was almost complete. There was some fine-tuning left to finish, sure. Some bolts to tighten, some knobs to loosen, a nozzle or two to adjust. But the thing that worried him most– and the thing that had motivated him to take to the moonbeam’s construction with a half-dedicated procrastination– was the Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux. It was the part of the moonbeam that made the moonbeam a moonbeam. It was a palm-sized piece of glass that was responsible for conjuring up the antimatter. This made it extremely dangerous, particularly in the hands of someone like Fat Milo, whose attention was so easily diverted at the exact wrong moments because he preferred to think about things as opposed to, you know, doing them. And if the Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux was stimulated to life at just the wrong moment, all that would happen is that a small nuclear explosion would take place, instantaneously vaporizing Fat Milo and any piece of matter within a 16 mile radius.
Well…perhaps “vaporize” is not the proper term, here. The matter wouldn’t so much as vaporize as just simply cease to exist. Once the antimatter collided with the matter, it would all just transform instantaneously into the utter and profound Nothingness that all of Somethingness springs from.
Anyhow, now was the time. The rest of the laser gun was complete. All that was left was to place the Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux in it’s proper assemblage, aim the barrel toward the giant-ass target that was the moon, turn on the moonbeam and simply sit back and witness the end of the world.
But to what purpose? What was the point of this selfish self-destruction? To what ends was Fat Milo directing his actions?
Well, essentially, he was tired of going to work every day.
Fat Milo had seen a show on the Science Channel one evening, discussing how the Earth would be affected if someone had decided to blow up the moon. It would be bedlam. Molten hot moonpieces would fall to the earth, destroying cities and leading to a mass destruction of life. Plus, he figured, the sheer monumental eventfulness of the moon being decimated would certainly warrant a day or two off from work.
This might seem like an obscenely excessive and brazen escalation of effort on Fat Milo’s part. However, you need to remember that this was the guy who, as a high school kid, was so desperate to get out of wrestling practice that he once spent two weeks tunneling through the subterranean landscape of Rio Frio High School in order to sneak into the wrestling room early one winter morning, before classes started (before the buses had even left the garage) and carve up all the wrestling mats with an ex-acto knife, thereby rendering them wholly useless as apparati.
We can ignore the fact that the wrestling coach simply adjusted by having the wrestling team wrestle outside, in the cold, on top of a frozen football field, which Fat Milo found even more distasteful. The point is that instead of simply quitting the team and moving on with life, Fat Milo thought it reasonable to enact a–essentially–overly-convoluted villainous action movie B-plot so that he could go home and eat cereal and watch reruns on Nickelodeon after school.
And now, instead of simply quitting his job and finding something that was more agreeable with his skills, motivation and temperament, he was going to mount a cataclysmic scheme that would impact every resident of the planet Earth (much like–it should be noted–that his plan to avoid wrestling practice would’ve and should’ve affected every member of the team who actually wanted to be at practice, as well as all the prospective opponents of the wrestling team, who would be competing against a compromised shell of a wrestling team who had to practice in the outdoors, on frozen grass).
This was Fat Milo’s M.O. His aunt, El Chupacabra the Apathetic, used to tell Fat Milo, “I think you’re overthinking things,” such as when Fat Milo posed the theory that the entire history of Zen Buddhism had been a lie, and that the entire purpose had been to send an endless procession of schmucks, such as himself, into a state of nihilistic confusion.
“Either meditate or don’t meditate,” El Chupacabra had stated. “But get out of your own head a bit. The point of Zen is simply to act and not think so much about stupid shit. Save your masturbation tactics for the shower.”
When the moonbeam was complete, Fat Milo took a deep breath. It was a cool summer night somewhere in the backwoods of Crestone, Colorado. These were the same woods where some yokels named El Crow, Pedolo and Lone Wolf had sworn under oath that they had stumbled upon a satanic cult in the midst of a terrible blood-ritual while they were searching for the ever-elusive chupacabra–the beast, not the sham philosopher. The trio had described at first seeing a large bonfire in the distance, as the woods and hills gave way to flat desert land in the Valley. And then, drunk off their own curiosity, they followed the flames to a repugnant ceremony of animal slaughter and spirit-conjuring by a rather disturbingly large group of people draped in capes and sporting what seemed to be spooky Chinese opera masks.
Fat Milo frowned upon such people as El Crow, Pedolo and Lone Wolf. He felt them stupid. They didn’t think about things enough. Always acting on scant information and gut feelings. Always accepting their mistaken and illusory perceptions of things. Always reacting to their emotions and feeble desires. “Not me,” he said to himself. “I am above that.” He did, after all, read profound, meaningful, world-saving books by such luminaries as Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Artemis Magnussen.
And when he finished jerking his psyche off to such pornographic ideas of himself, he flipped the switch that would forever alter the nature of an entire planet all so he could garner a couple of days off of work without dipping into his sick leave.
…But it didn’t work.
He flipped the switch again.
He flipped it several times quickly, the clicking of the switch sounding something like the flapping of a dragonfly’s wings.
He kicked the moonbeam over with a front snap kick. The weapon hit the ground and separated into several dozen useless pieces. The Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux didn’t even create a small quasi-anti-thermonuclear explosion when it collided with the ground, as his calculations suggested it probably would. It simply broke in half and sizzled a small stream of smoke which smelled like concentrated ozone and burnt popcorn.
“ARGHHH,” he growled. “What the fuck?!”
He began his dejected hike back down from the woods into civilization when, upon passing by a lone tree near the bottom of the hills, he felt a warm drop of something fall upon his forehead.
He pulled out his cell-phone to use a flashlight app to shine a light upon the tips of his fingers, which he had used to wipe whatever it was that had fallen upon his brow.
The liquid was dark purple, almost black. And behind him, somebody stated, suddenly:
“We have no idea who you are, but we’ve been waiting for you.”
She was wearing a spooky purple Chinese opera mask, except, for all his self-perceived swells of knowledge, Fat Milo did not know what kind of mask it was, simply that it was spooky.
And off in the distance, down in the Valley, he could see a rather large bonfire which shone like a small city in the wilderness.
Last evening, during a walk, it struck me how beautiful the dead trees throughout the neighborhood looked against the evening sky. So I took out my phone and started taking pictures.
Don’t do this.
I was taking pictures of a tree outside a house and the owner walked out and was like, “What are you doing here, bro?”
And I was like, “Taking picture of this tree.”
And he was like, “Why? Huh?”
And I said, “Because it looks pretty against the sky.”
At this point he must’ve assumed I was just high, or otherwise cognitively compromised, and he seemed to calm down, but just to assuage his fears a little more, I said, “My name is Manny, man. I live just down the street at 139. I know it looks weird, and I am a bit of a weirdo, but I’m not hazardous by any means.”
He turned out to be a pretty cool dude.
Anyway, I think, “A bit of a weirdo, but not hazardous by any means,” should go on my tombstone.
I’ve lived in Pueblo, Colorado for a little more than a year-and-a-half now. It’s an interesting place. Lots of vagabonds and hoodlums, and the locals are all overweight and smoke. Drug use runs rampant, and it’s one of those small towns you see on the evening news every so often for having an obscene murder rate. In fact, we made the national news the past couple of months, once for the arrest of a white supremacist who was planning to blow up a synagogue here, and more recently for a murderous rampage some dude went on with a literal axe.
Denver Broncos paraphernalia abound, with flags hanging out of every other home on Sundays, and mailboxes and automobiles all decked out in a blue and orange ugly, pissed-off horse. All of the milquetoast east coast and midwest transplants to Colorado avoid this place almost as much as they avoid having personalities.
All of which is to say, I enjoy Pueblo immensely on most days. But one disappointing aspect has been the dearth of worthwhile Mexican restaurants. This problem isn’t unique to Pueblo, by any means. 20 years ago, Colorado was rife with delicious Mexican-American food. You could get distracted and somehow end up in a shithole restaurant with a hot, delicious plate of chile rellenos and beans sitting in front of you, unsure of how it happened. But in the interim, something has happened and now you can’t find a decent Mexican restaurant even with the help of word of mouth and a GPS. Colorado Springs is, unsurprisingly, more moribund than Pueblo on such matters. But the real disappointment is Denver. Denver is of course large enough to have, by sheer probability, a handful of decent Mexican restaurants, but it’s pathetic how few and far in between they are.
You settle for “okay” or “fine” Mexican-American offerings, but The Soul Remembers. The Soul Remembers that there used to be something called, “Decent Mexican food that wasn’t made at home” and it remembers that you used to eat it, and it remembers that it felt good. And so it’s never quite satisfied when you pay actual money for “fine” or “okay.” It knows something is missing, and it wanders the spiritual realm without you, scouring and hoping for any semblance of what it Remembers.
I keep chewing and chewing
but all the flavor
stays trapped inside somewhere
my teeth can’t seem to get to
Anyhow, there is a “decent” taqueria in town. Adolfo’s has a northside location and southside location. They’re, in a philosophical sense, the same restaurant, but the southside location tends to be “pretty good” while the northside location is just “pretty decent.” They both have really good tortillas, though. My issue with the southside location is that everything time I go there, there’s some creepy-looking cholo posted up outside of the restaurant, I’m assuming trying to look hazardous. It’s not the same guy every time. It’s always a different dude. But it’s the same vibe. Usually he’s wearing a big, puffy coat, smoking and trying to evoke an air of toughness. He wants to be intimidating because he is better at violence than you are. He may be selling drugs, but mostly these guys just stare at you and make you want to go home and take a shower and check the sex offender registry. You walk past them when you go in, and you walk past them on your way out, and they don’t say anything or do anything. they just stand there and be fucking weird.
And there’s more than one of them.
I have no point. Just that, it’s hard to get to get some quick, easy Mexican food, and in order to do so you have to deal with these weirdos.
Anyway, the best Mexican place I’ve been to in Pueblo is Garlic and Onions. But I haven’t been to all of them yet.
Today was one of those stone-cold bummer days at work. Everything was wrong. Everything went wrong. Everybody hated me and everything I stood for. Nobody hesitated to let me know about it.
None of it was personal, of course. It’s always business, never personal. That’s the truth. Life isn’t personal, it just feels like it is sometimes. But being middle-management means I have to enforce the stupid rules that I have in no way influenced, and I have to get yelled out by the people below me who have to adhere to those rules.
My job is I’m a counselor who supervises other counselors at a community mental health agency. This means the vast majority of our clients are impoverished. This means that counseling is not really going to fix most of these people’s problems. No amount of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is going to help someone pay their rent. No amount of Cognitive Restructuring is going to make sure their next door neighbors aren’t gang-bangers and drug dealers.
Stuff like that.
Lazy day at work
I look outside my window
Watching the Snowfall
Drive outside of town
To watch some porn on my phone
During my lunchtime
Anyway, I had to work late. It was a typical early December evening. It was pitch black when I left the office at 7:00pm. There was leftover snow throughout the parking lot and on the tree skeletons that lined and dotted the parking lot at weird and only semi-coherent intervals. It’s a huge parking lot. Three times, at least, the size of the actual building I work in. And the building I work in is fairly large. It houses the department where I work and the 30 employees therein, a computer lab, a pharmacy, four medical clinics, the entire billing, business information and quality improvement staffs, and a 60-day inpatient substance abuse program.
Anyhow, I was about halfway through the parking lot when I realized I had been running late earlier, and had parked much closer to the building than I typically do, and I shifted directions to make a sharp turn toward the location of my 2012 Nissan Rogue (a grandma’s car if ever there was one), I stepped absentmindedly onto one of the concrete medians separating rows of parking spaces from each other and smacked my head onto the lower branch of one of those tree skeletons.
A punch of snow fell onto my head and onto the ground. The pain was immediate and it felt as though my neck had actually taken the brunt of the impact. I became woozy and ill. It took me a moment to come back fully to life, and I once the coolness of the snow melted, I felt something warm on my skull. I placed a finger there on the warmth and when I removed it, a dab of blood ran down my finger.
I had managed to cut my head on the tree.
It was the perfect end to such an imperfect day. I got into my Rogue and completed the thirty minute ride home is as much silence as I could maintain.