Archive for February, 2007

Top ten Netflix rentals

(As annoying as they can be to read, who doesn’t love making pointless lists?…no particular order)

Spirited Away
War Photographer
Double Indemnity
Rear Window
Wild Strawberries
Harold and Maude
Bottle Rocket
Blue Velvet
Annie Hall


Go-cart dreams

Strandwood Elementary probably functions in my mind in the same way most people think about their first relationships. When a young, idealistic person finally enters into the hyped up world of dating, it isn’t odd for the beloved’s flaws to melt away (or be overlooked) and for every “first” moment to be seared into the beholder’s memory with impossibly perfect and magical qualities; somewhat imagined.
The same is true for Strandwood. Perhaps part of the reason why my elementary school sits on a pedestal among a sea of other significant childhood memories is because I was fairly popular while I was a student there. Things were simple: if you possessed a decent kickball leg and could muster the courage to spout an occasional wisecrack aimed at the teacher, you had it made. Even the most anxiety-ridden occurrences that took place at Strandwood had benefits. The “kissy girls,” a gang of rambunctious females who were known for chasing down a lone male with the intent of pinning him down and showering him with shy pecks on the cheek, secretly boosted my ego everyday at recess as I washed their deadly germs off my face.
But the real reason why Strandwood has stubbornly remained a powerful place in my mind is because of the times I spent there after school. Living seven blocks away from the foursquare plastered blacktop, the field’s climbable hill and the rows of chain swing sets made Strandwood an irresistible weekend destination. I would go there with my friends, family, or alone. Regardless of who came with me, I was always equipped with a vehicle designed for speed.
I’d think about the kissy girls, those speedy devils who I could never quite outrun (even though part of me strangely wanted to be caught), and I’d feel pathetically slow. I started having dreams about being chased by strangers until my legs would suddenly give out, transforming into stone statues that refused to trudge one more step. As the dreams got worse I began going to Strandwood more often to ride my bike. I would fly across the blacktop, swerve dangerously between narrow halls, buck off hidden mounds of dirt in the field; all while standing upright and peddling like I was trying to break some sort of record.
As time passed, I started to feel that the propulsion offered by my bike couldn’t measure up to my newly acquired addiction to move with extreme quickness. I wanted to travel as fast as possible, preferably without any requirement of physical output. If The Simpsons and The Little Rascals had taught me anything, it was that a go-cart is an essential part of any suburban childhood. After months of begging my Dad, he surprised me on my birthday with a homemade, flame emblazoned, two-rider and motorless go-cart. I quickly convinced my sister to help me drag the vehicle to Strandwood where we’d have a test run on the field’s steep hill.
I spent everyday that summer dragging my oak hewn go-cart from my backyard to Strandwood’s hill. Somehow, the five seconds of plowing down the hill at its steepest point and coasting twenty feet across the soccer field made all the lugging worthwhile. The driver’s seat was a bolted down lawn chair while the “break man”, whose job was to grind the hand break into the rear tire if the go-cart steered out of control, had to ride near the back on a small wooden platform.
After our initial fears of capsizing midway down the hill had proven to be unwarranted, my friends and I acted as recklessly as possible to maintain the fun.
We built small jumps out of dirt, launching the go-cart through the air before meeting the steep incline with near fatal nosedives. We fit five kids on the platform designed for one break man, wobbling down the hill, pitching kids off as we hit barely detectable cracks in the dirt. We’d abandon the driver’s seat and bail out in tumbling dives moments before the ghost ride would send the go-cart veering out of control.
By the end of summer an undeniable pattern emerged: I’d discover a way to travel at high speeds across every possible surface of my elementary school, eventually get bored, and invent new ways to make the activity dangerous to keep myself interested. The poor go-cart eventually became a victim of my insatiable thirst for fun. By the end of summer my friends and I were ready to try one last glorious stunt before the impending boredom of a new school year claimed our dangerous pastime.
There was a large steel soccer goal at the bottom of the hill that we were used to avoiding. Instead of staying a safe distance from the beams, someone had the brilliant idea of attempting to go through the middle—directly at the ten-foot gap created by two thick metal bars. Without taking time to think, discuss, or grab protective helmets we decided to pull of one last stunt at that very moment.
I decided to be the driver, along with the kid who came up with the idea as the break man. We teetered on the lip of the hill in silence before suddenly plummeting over the edge. Rumbling along our familiar tracks as the tires flung clods of dirt in every direction, I gripped the steering wheel with a foreign feeling of terror in my stomach. Despite the fact that the goal was straight ahead of us, gap dead-on, the go-cart coasting at dangerous speeds, I choked. It was as if an alarm went off in my head, commanding me to save myself by jerking the steering wheel to one side in an attempt to avoid the goal all together. But the flinch was too late. I waited a little too long. The goal post grew larger with every second, stretching far above our heads until a deafening “CLANG” halted the go-cart in its tracks. Hurled onto the field in opposite directions, my friend and I somehow survived without any serious injuries. The go-cart, on the other hand, was dejectedly tipped over sideways with the front axle split in half, wheels spinning weakly in the air.
I don’t remember the crash that ended the life of my go-cart too well. I also don’t fully remember those countless times when the go-cart would come to its inevitable halt halfway across the field–when we’d have to heave the painfully heavy vehicle right back up the side of the hill. What I do remember, with crisp detail, are those first moments when the go-cart would plunge over the edge. I remember the go-cart hurtling along the incongruous dirt surface. I remember the summer’s one hundred degree weather momentarily eclipsed by wind on my face. I remember hearing high-pitched echoes of screams and laughter refracting down the halls. I remember breathlessly retelling the details of the day’s go-cart runs to my parents as they skeptically listened to my stories that must have had a few exaggerations here and there.

Mountain Vista Middle School has a basketball court that rises a few inches above the field’s level like an island. The school has no blacktop; just the court with two baskets. Both baskets have unreadable red spray paint graffiti all over the backboards so you can’t tell where the box that’s supposed to help you aim is located. There are a bunch of marks on the smooth gray cement surface of the court. The short, wide marks are from the rubber of basketball shoes that have skidded, halted, and dodged. The long double lines that weave, curl, and spiral are mostly from my skateboard but a few are from other skateboards. Along the edge of the court there are some lanky trees that were planted too close to a single bench. There are three trees and their branches don’t have enough leaves to produce any tough shade. The bench is dark green and has cigarette butts underneath and scattered in front of it even though there’s a bent up trashcan a few feet away.
The weather at school is either cold or medium cold or warm but it never gets hot. There’s usually some dull wind in the morning. Never enough to make being outside feel icy. In the winter it rains often. The rain only sometimes hits hard enough to make exploding pellets on the cement basketball court. On rare occasions when it really pours the field turns into a mess of chunky mud soup because the grass wasn’t planted evenly, just in clumps and patches, and no one takes care of it. Most of the time it drizzles on and off lazily to the point where it’s hard to say if it’s really rain or just damp mist.
School is divided into four sections of classrooms by two hallways that make a giant “+” sign if you could somehow look down on them from the sky. Where the halls intersect is the quad area. Wax soda cups and flimsy tissues for holding pizza and little cardboard bowls with pictures of French fries on them litter the perimeter. The center of the quad is always clean. There are picnic tables with umbrellas lined up on the side facing the eighth grade classrooms. The side facing the seventh grade classrooms has picnic tables except they don’t have umbrellas. The sixth grade side has rows of benches with no backrests. Facing the gym’s direction there are Soda machines. Each machine has the same picture of a Sprite bottle dripping with ice and they all offer the same exact types of bottled soda for $1.25 each. There are empty soda bottles littered around the machines even though there’s a recycling can a few feet away.
If you walk from school to the downtown area, a couple restaurants and antique stores, you have to make it up three hills. The first and second hills aren’t so bad. You can’t even really tell where they start inclining because they aren’t very steep. The third hill looks like a massive wall with houses growing off of it as you approach from a distance. It’s obvious where the third hill starts because you have to take slow steps with all your weight pressing down on your toes. Even though the hill looks intimidating, it only covers five blocks, which would be a quick walk if the ground were flat.
Down town has an abandoned gas station where older kids skateboard in big groups. Next to the abandoned gas station there’s a building called “Dirty Jake’s Bar” that has a canvas sign sagging from the roof that says “The only bar in town!” There are brown splatters stained all over the sidewalk in front of the bar and sometimes you see dizzy looking men pace down the street. Behind the bar and the abandoned gas station and the restaurants and the antique shops there is a huge stretch of tall grass that’s always yellow. If you go behind a business and walk through the grass for a while you’ll come across the same trees that don’t give enough shade by the basketball court. The trees spring up in random places, although the number of them increases as you get closer to the slimy canal that starts near school and passes behind all the shops down town. The canal keeps going past all the stores, extending outside city limits. None of the kids at school know where the canal ends up.

The Suburban Hangover

i take pictures of something that’s blind
from all the other flashes it has seen
but i still feel it necessary and impending
any angel will do the job
the compulsory nightmare
mindless tourism incarnate

because the more i use computers
the more i act like one
programmed to do a specific function
at the same time programmed not to entertain
internal protests that bash mechanical impulses
and delete the investigation of habitual irony
(the television show Big Brother replaces conversation)

there are glints of a rebellious spark
a dim flame that awakens
flashing boldly in the dark
visible from transparency to ask with force
“what the fuck are you doing?”

suddenly i realize i’m taking a photo of Lincoln’s memorial
from behind multitudes of people
who don’t seem to consider the stubborn spark
or have permanently extinguished it with water
from a polluted piss stream
stemming from the mass media’s
carbon copy bladder

the embers have been buried alive
a modern remorseful truth
because if the spark was always flaming
then every billboard,
newspaper with political
and corporate funding,
American Terrorist,
movie theater,
Nike shoe,
text book with mandatorally distributed
Coca-Cola book cover
(the same corporation
that assassinates union leaders
in South America)
must be burnt down to the ground
to preserve the last grain
of anything which people claim
makes the United States of America
“the best damned country” on Earth

that burning cinder block
is hibernating in my stomach
when it sleeps i buy Gatorade
(the blue kind)
in preparation for a Capitalist future
because alternatives are bleak and far away
like a new form of government that does not encourage
consistent voter turnout decrease,
and a crushing lack of rebellion

that leaves me listening to 60’s music
wishing our generation would face apathy’s hangover
and wake up together.