chokecherriesAt Easter, in the early years when my mother was still sane, she cut lengths of pussy willow branches and brought them inside. Not yet budded, they came laden with soft silver pods like rabbits’ feet. She took colored powders and dusted the fur pods. Pale yellow, pink, lavender, blue.

My mother told my father, They’re trying to kill us. She said, They’re coming after us.  She said, They are a band of assassins hired by the CIA to kill the families of Green Berets. He said to her, that doesn’t make any god damn sense.

Reality is slippery. If someone tells you something often enough for long enough, regardless of whether it’s true, you begin to believe it. Or at least you might begin to doubt your own perceptions, think, maybe she knows something I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there’s something here that I don’t understand.

I’m thinking I need to start thinking so I can write a piece called, “What I Think About When I Should be Thinking About Nothing While I’m Doing Yoga.” I’m thinking I need to write this because while I should be thinking about nothing during yoga, while I should be focusing on the present, focusing on my breathing, I inevitably start thinking. I think writing about it will help me stop. Thinking that is.

Special note: this interview is taken from a transcript of an experiment conducted using a new cutting edge device, created by Dr. Metalbaum Glisshammer. The device, wirelessly connected to special microscopic sensors planted near the hippocampus, allows for tracking and recording of brain activity, and more importantly, translates that activity into actual conversation. Dr. Glisshammer, infamously known for his tragic experiments splicing the DNA of very intelligent Rottweilers with supermodels, has high hopes this new device will be a “game changer” in the scientific community.


Left Side Of The Brain: (for some reason sports a British accent) So Jaimes, thank you for joining us here today.

Right Side Of The Brain: Well, Jaimes, I really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter really…


Yes, well…we have been asked to discuss the details of our participation in, particularly, the O.C. Poetry community. Would you like to begin?

Well, as you know we entered the scene in a round about way. We had taken a Creative Writing class in high school, but the idea of going to readings or even writing poetry on a consistent basis certainly didn’t happen till years later.


Yes, our mutual friends and poetry promoter’s Victor Infante and Elmo Martin had been hosting a reading and eventually we accepted their invitations to attend and became rather intrigued by the whole thing.

That’s how YOU remember it. The truth is for months I attempted to persuade a certain Left side of the brain to allow us to go, but it was always one excuse after another.


I was only hesitant because I wanted more information. You were so apt to do haphazard, foolish and even, dare I say it, dangerous experimentation.

The word you are looking for is creative. I was creative and you, well you are about as boring as an infomercial for walkers.


Creative? That time we argued with gang members? That was arts & crafts was it?

They broke into our car!


We waved a fake broken B.B. gun, threatening neighbors?

We didn’t threaten the neighbors. We merely said that if they knew who broke into our car they better pray the police got to them before we did. And afterward, the neighborhood respected us.


They didn’t respect us. They laughed at us behind our back and called the police! What about the time we were arrested for trespassing?

We were not arrested.


The cops shoved guns in our face, handcuffed us and threw us into a police car!

But we were not arrested. Besides it was a film project.


Yes, so you told the police as they surrounded us. “Oh it’s alright officer! I’m filming!” Utter careless irresponsibility!

Okay, maybe that was a lapse in judgment.


That’s just it. You are a consistent source of lapse of judgment!

Okay, now your just being overly dramatic.


Am I? The fight with a skinhead at the karaoke bar?

He started it.


Getting us arrested for shoplifting aspirin?

We had a headache.


We ended up spending 5 days in jail!

Alright. Alright. What about you? Always over analyzing everything! What about asking Stacee McCarver if we could kiss her? Seriously, you NEVER ask if you can kiss someone?


I was trying to be…

…Stupidly, amazingly, idiotic!


…respectful.

Ha! Respectful! You are just afraid of taking any chances. And, I’ll tell you something else this flippin’ OCD you have us saddled with, is so annoying!


Organization and order is not a disease.

Holy cats! We can’t even enjoy porn because everything has to be to your specifications!


I’m sorry there is simply no excuse for not having at least somewhat of a plot. And does it really kill them to shoot things in order and not to film the bloody things on what is apparently a sinking ship! Half the time it makes us so dizzy we have to reach for the Dimenhydrinate!

The what?


Dramamine dear boy.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You can’t simply say Dramamine?


Point taken. I will try to curb my enthusiasm for cultured speech. But look, this is getting us nowhere. Let’s just admit that we both intrude from time to time on each others…space.

Fine. Whatever. What’s the next question?


Good…Now, I know some of our inspirations include Salvador Dali, David Lynch, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman.

Don’t forget Rod Serling.


Right. The question remains how does that actually influence our poetry? For me I would say the more intellectually stimulated I am, the more ideas I can explore.

You mean the more creative ideas you can kill.


Nooo. I mean what I said.

(laughs bitterly) You edit to death.


I clarify thoughts.

No you don’t. You kill them. I come up with a great idea. The first draft is humming and then you come into it and muck it all up.


So you don’t believe in editing?

I believe in good editing. You…you just don’t know when to stop.


Is that so?

(mimicking L.S. accent) That is so, dear boy!


(ignores the mimicking) Be that as it may, we obviously have some pieces that have connected with certain people. We have been published in some fine publications. Hosted and produced some well respected readings.

We were big in Riverside…


Ah yes, the cult of THE BAD POET MAN! Quite an interesting phenomenon.

Of course, the Riverside Poets started the whole thing, performing the piece, as it were, every week, and adding their own spin which, if I recall, was as if Robert Altman directed a Kabuki version of the thing. For a time we were treated like kings in Riverside.


Later I heard that someone in Las Vegas was claiming he had written BAD POET MAN and was performing it at Enigma. Our 15 seconds of fame…

Perhaps, but we were also involved in a number of important events: The OC Poetry Festival, The NEW VOICES showcase which we created for the festival, benefits featuring Brendan Constantine, Rick Lupert, Derrick Brown, Mindy Nettifee, Amber Tamblyn, Jeffrey McDaniel…ah, remember when we D.J.d his wedding?


Dropping names? Talk about classless!

I’m simply noting that when we work together we can accomplish great things.
Sure. When the tides are right and the moon is in the correct orbit and the planets align, and the light sings to the deep blue sea and the …


We get the point! Moving forward. What part does music and pop culture play in our work?

Um. A big one. Though you often edit all my pop culture references.


Only the really obscure ones.

Theodore Giessel references are not obscure. Dizzy Gillespie references are not obscure. …um…Twin Peaks references: not obscure.


Well, you obviously don’t understand marketing.

And you obviously missed your calling working for FOX.


Perhaps, if your writing was less surreal…

What? It would be more popular? I could get a guest appearance on
THE HILLS? Oh goodie!


The trouble with you is you want fame but you only want it on your own terms. That just isn’t realistic. You have to grow up! You have to accept your station in life!

And what is that exactly?


We are middle aged. We are soft and ludicrously ill equipped to compete financially, emotionally or creatively. In short: we are in a rut.

Yeah…You’re a dick!


Very mature!

(incredibly has, apparently, produced a kazoo and is now kazooing the song I’LL NEVER GROW UP!)


Oh, don’t be childish.

(suddenly stops, turns and barks at L.S.) What about the ozone layer?


Excuse me?

Do you realize there are huge gaps in the Ozone Layer? Some the size of small towns? Did you know the universe is expanding? Did you know the stars we see at night are probably long extinct? Did you know right now there are small movements that will lead to the ultimate destruction of all life as we know it?!


Ah! So what you are saying is that politics and modern causes fuel our poetry!

No. I wasn’t. Though they certainly are often a factor. What I was trying to point out is that you don’t see the whole picture! That is why you have to have everything so compartmentalized! That is why you cannot think creatively. And that is why I had to drag us to become involved in the O.C. Poetry Scene.


That’s not entirely true. You wanted to be an actor, but failed at it.

Acting has always, and will always, be our first love. Being in the scene keeps our performance levels from becoming rusty.


Speak for yourself. The odds of us ever getting famous are astronomical.

If you allowed me to take more chances…


If I allowed you to take more chances we would be dead by now!

Yes. But we would be happier!


Then why even be a poet?

Are you kidding? Why does anyone do anything.?


Oh, I don’t know. To improve society. To connect with your fellow man. To leave an important legacy behind…

…Yes! Exactly! Yeah, that’s good.


You were going to say “to meet girls” weren’t you?

Yeah.


My God you are just bloody useless.


We ooze ourselves from restaurant to street, two thick-ass snakes of toothpaste from a fat-bottomed tube. Husband and wife, bound by fluoride and fullness. Residents hang on the street corners like ornaments, eating their late lunches from the stalls, kissing their girlfriends and boyfriends, playing with wind-up toys in the squares, dropping their ice cream cones to the city ants. It’s almost noon, almost time for us to check out, and we don’t want to abuse Juan Pérez’s kindness. We have a 9:00pm flight to Oaxaca City, our intended destination, but Mexico City, our mere layover is creeping into our blood like plaque, arresting us, seducing us.

We circle a maze of backstreets, hoping to find an alternative route back to the Rioja. We walk quickly, whizzing past the music stores blaring with recorded trumpets and snare drums, rail-thin clerks polishing the speaker-tops with blue rags. We try to make it back by check-out time. We really do. But we turn up a pedestrian alley, paved with ancient gray stone, and see a round old jelly doughnut of a woman, her entire torso hidden beneath the spill of her breasts, silver hair crested with a lace bobby-pinned doily, pressing fresh blue corn gorditas in the street.

She coughs like the proverbial mother hen laying the spiciest of eggs, and my fears are confirmed. I have, indeed, lost all restraint. I am pulled into her orbit, some feeble Millennium Falcon caught in the Death Star magnetism of her spanking the blue corn dough.

“Are you serious?” Louisa asks.

“How can I pass this up?” I say, digging a few sweaty peso coins from my pocket.

“This is all you.”

Soon, we’re in front of her, her face beaming as we take in her chalkboard easel menu. I recognize the names of all of the gordita filling options—carne asada, carnita, barbacoa, pollo, hongos, rajas—except one. The last one on the list, resting like the black sheep underdog of Mexican street food, hiding its deliciousness at the back of the line. Sesos de cerdo. So euphonious. What can this possibly be? The music store trumpets fire away behind us, underscoring the mystery. Sesos de cerdo. I imagine the words crooned by some dime-store romance novel Latin lover, blue corn tortillas stuffed with rose petals, pomegranate, Spanish fly… In these three words, the sky goes emerald green with aphrodisiac blister beetles. Surely this woman hides the ashes of the Marquis de Sade in her pendulous bra. Surely, I must order this final item.

“Hola,” I muster.

“Hoolaa,” she calls, rocking on the balls of bare feet, rectangular as mud bricks.

“Puedo tener una gordita con, uh, sesos de cerdo, por favor?”

And I love saying it, those three words leaking like oil from my mouth.

“Oohhh!” she clucks, “Te gusta los sesos?”

“Sí,” I say.

Of course. How, in the symphony of the word, can I not like sesos?

She curls her lips downward, impressed. This should be foreboding, I tell myself, but somehow, on this dusty stone, Louisa’s eyes narrowing to my left, purposefully deciding to check-out late due to this gordita audible, it’s not. The sky is exactly white, tough to stare into, and Louisa is pulling on my sleeve. I turn to her, follow her eyes to the squatting woman. We watch as she dips her hand into a filthy white bucket marked—in English of all things!—with the words, Pork Brains.

My once excited stomach now recoils into the recesses of my ribcage, all euphony now metamorphosing into some broken dish clatter, hellish and ear-curdling. These words have duped me. Deep into this woman’s cleavage, the ashen Marquis de Sade is surely having his last laugh. Retreating from the bucket, the woman’s fat bare hand bulges with wet, grayish chunks of porcine cerebellum. A few drops of brain juice drip from between her fingers to the stone, and even the ants run for cover. She tosses the gray matter onto her comal and they steam with foul stench, dusty, organic, almost deciduous.

Louisa is enjoying this immensely, my face as white as a sheet. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-brain, but the ingesting of pig brain, as street food, in Mexico, strikes me somewhat…well…hasty, a perfect recipe for a tough day tomorrow in Oaxaca. But I’ve ordered it, told this sweet doughball of a woman that I like it. And I must admit, I’m nervous, but curious.

Louisa mimics a gagging sound.

“Don’t do that,” I beg.

She lights her Winston and wanders up the street, stares into the window of a flower shop. In the distance, somewhere behind the ornate stone of these buildings, I can hear a group of people chanting, “Peligroso! Peligroso!” Dangerous! Dangerous!

Oh shit, what have I done? Haven’t I learned to listen to ghosts by now? With a long spatula caked with charcoal sludge, she scoops the pig brain into a lovely puffed vessel of blue corn and hands it me smiling. I pass her the five peso coin. For a few seconds, all I can do is stare at it, feel the ample weight of it in my hands. In my nose, death and ammonia, mold, blood, earth soured with standing water.

“Te comes,” she says, and my mother, still young and healthy, her arms locked with the boarder, and my giggling little sister, joins in: Eat it, eat it…

And so I do, open my mouth like a drawbridge, the rust of it creaking at the corners, and take my bite. Pig brain squirming in my mouth like a guppy, some intellectual ejaculate, the tofu of the head, I close my eyes and bite down, releasing the penetrating taste of coal-smoke and egg white. This is not good. This is tough. I grit my teeth and try to mask it as a smile. The old woman laughs and kisses her dirty fingers.

“Sesos,” she says.

Yes. Yes they are. Fucking sesos. Swallow and walk away, beaten, bullied, duped again by false euphony. I silently apologize to each pig I’ve ever eaten. Revenge, Sus scrofa, is yours. Good for you.

I catch up with Louisa who knows what my face is saying, and I hers: You asked for it. I run to the nearest trash can, entertaining a capacity crowd of horseflies, turn behind me to make sure the woman isn’t looking, and empty the gordita of its brains. The fresh blue corn shell, in spite of the rank juice that has soaked into it, is so impressive, that I force myself to finish it.


Monday 9/19/10 09:30AM
FROM: “John Polcheck” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Daniel Baird
Deputy Director of Records,
Department of Limbic Involvement

Chuck Pierce, Deputy Liason of Auditory Cortex has noted that Audio Artifact 9443 (A.K.A. Madonna‘s hit song “Ray of Light”) has officially exceeded the Prescribed Number of Auditory Samplings (P.N.A.S.). The violation occurred on 9/16/10, 14:26 in Berkeley, CA in the check-out line at the Safeway on Shattuck Avenue, when A.A. 9443 played over the P.A. This being the 611th sampling, all enjoyment of A.A. 9443 was officially exhausted. No enjoyment shall heretofore be derived from the artifact in question. For details concerning the variability of P.N.A.S., please see Appendix C as attached to the handbook for cerebral function. The ruling of the Department of Prefrontal Involvement that the brain at large has become sick of A.A. 9443 takes effect immediately.

John H. Polcheck
Quality Control Representative,
Department of Prefrontal Involvement
a.d.t. Undersecretary to the Dept.

* * *

Monday 9/19/10 12:14PM
FROM: “Barry Steinberg” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Hey Dan,

I just heard about the “Ray of Light” ruling… But don’t fret. I’ve got some pull with the Prefrontals. The Deputy-Director owes me from when I fudged a review. Remember when their department forgot to set the alarm clock and the brain overslept last week? When the body missed that meeting? Let’s just say the Guilt Review for that got postponed indefinitely… Whatever. Catholicism, Shmatholicism. And I’ll just pile it on when the Prefrontals decide we’re in a big hurry and park in a handicapped space again.

Anyway, I’ll see if I can’t bend Polcheck’s ear about the ruling. But go ahead and file an appeal just to be sure.

Barry

* * *

Tuesday 9/20/10 11:12AM
FROM: “Jennifer Sherwood” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Danny,

So not fair about “Ray of Light!” Boo! Have you opened the file yet? Make sure you label everything correctly. That baby’s gonna fly out of there on Nostalgia Review. Look what happened with all those Tears for Fears songs!

Love, Jenny

* * *

Monday 9/26/10 9:30AM
FROM: “John Polcheck” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Daniel Baird
Deputy Secretary of Records
Department of Prefrontal Involvement

The recently filed appeal request, RE: A.A. 9443 has been denied. Artifact will be filed in Subconscious Memory Database (S.M.D.) as scheduled, based on cerebral bylaw no. 1187, which states that P.N.A.S. violations are subject to appeal only after petitions for continuation of enjoyment have been filed with the Department of Prefrontal Involvement.

Please refer to Appeals F.A.Q. in the handbook for further questions, or contact your Director.

Thank you,

John H. Polcheck
Quality Control Representative,
Department of Prefrontal Involvement
a.d.t. Undersecretary to the Dept.

* * *

Monday 9/26/10 11:24AM
FROM: “Barry Steinberg” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Danny Boy,

Well, my so-called friends in the Prefrontal System have bailed on me about the “Ray of Light” ruling. But I am not deterred. But it’s especially lame that this is being handed down now, of all times, right when vacation’s coming up. AND we just got that Post-“Vogue” Madonna mixtape. Don’t think I haven’t thought about that. I’m gonna see about filing a petition. Do you think we can get the signatures in time for vaca?

Laters,

Barry

* * *

Tuesday 9/27/10 2:44PM
FROM: “Jennifer Sherwood” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Dan,

I heard about Barry’s petition against the “Ray of Light” ruling! I am soooo signing, and I’m getting all my girls to sign, too. You guys are the coolest for doing this! Fight the power! Speaking of which, you guys should look into petitioning for “Fight the Power,” too. Can you believe the P.N.A.S. on that one? Those Prefrontals are slipping.

Kisses,

Jenny

* * *

Wednesday 9/28/10 10:22AM
FROM: “Sherman Georen” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Dan the Man! Good on you and Barry’s petition! You coming to Gina’s party on Saturday? Peace, Sherm

* * *

Wednesday 9/28/10 12:03PM
FROM: [email protected]
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Ray of Liiiiiight!!! Nice job fellas! Just signed the petition!

* * *

Wednesday 9/28/10 12:53PM
FROM: “Blake Harring” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Really? Madonna? What happened when, “Radio, Radio” got the ax last week? I seem to recall “My Funny Valentine” going not too long before that. If you’re going to challenge the Prefrontals, you could at least pick something decent to fight over. Blake

* * *

Wednesday 9/28/10 12:58PM
FROM: “Matt Ortt” <[email protected]>

And I feeeeeeel! Like I just got home! And I feeeeeel! Did you move your cubicle? I was walking around like an asshole for like ten minutes at lunch. Matt

* * *

Wednesday 9/28/10 1:23PM
FROM: “Barry Steinberg” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Danny,

Dude, there’s like fifty people filing past my desk right now signing our petition! It’s totally happening. And by “people,” I mean hot assistants. But really, you should come down here.

Barry

* * *

Monday 10/2/10 9:30AM
FROM: “John Polcheck” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

Daniel Baird
Deputy Director of Records,
Department of Limbic Involvement

The ruling that A.A. 9443 be filed into Subconscious Memory Database has been officially overturned, due to a successful petition and appeals process by several junior employees in the D.L.I. The P.N.A.S. requirements for A.A. 9443 are under review and will be issued next quarter.

John H. Polcheck
Quality Control Representative,
Department of Prefrontal Involvement
a.d.t. Undersecretary to the Dept.

* * *

Monday 10/2/10 9:54AM
FROM: “Barry Steinberg” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

TO: “Daniel Baird” [email protected]>

U-S-A! U-S-A! Dude, if we don’t leverage this to get back some of those Springsteen songs, we’re not men. Are we not men, Danny Boy? And that Sherry chick asked about you. She’s a Madonna fan, that one.

* * *

Monday 10/2/10 12:37PM
FROM: “Matt Ortt” <[email protected]>
TO: “Daniel Baird” <[email protected]>

She’s got herself a universe! And I feeeeeeeeeeeeel! Nice work, Man.

 

My brain feels like one of those toys you have to push to make little bright objects bounce around in a clear dome over a loud grating noise.  Or a bingo dispenser, lots of stuff cluttering around and occasionally something comes out.  Or a garbage can at a rich person’s house or in a knick-knack store that’s going out of business.  You can see some good stuff in there but when you reach in you have to cringe past some gross gunk like banana peels and uneaten noodles and worse and you feel your way in the dark to find the valuable bits that can be wiped off, de-grossified, salvaged for future use.

Not to be dramatic.  I just can’t sleep so I’ll see what I can find in here (pointing to head.)

1.  At some point in middle school I went to a party where you could have your photo put on a drinking cup.  My friend Steph and I had two photos taken of us, and then each one put on a cup.  In one photo I looked really good and Steph looked okay.  In the other photo Steph looked really good and I looked okay.  I wanted the photo where I looked better but Steph said she wanted that one- why would she want to have a good photo of herself rather than one of her friend?

I forget what we decided on, but I felt vain and still do since if I were in the same situation today I’m pretty sure I would still want the better photo of myself.

2.  A few weeks ago I took a road trip to New Orleans with my friends Charlotte and Wilmot.  To pass the time in the car we played what turned into a sort of game- “Who Would You Rather Hook Up With?”  It was usually hit or miss, with many questions getting the answer – “Duh, of course (so and so).”

The fun was in thinking about the preferences of the person you were asking, and coming up with the perfectly balanced pair, balanced in either desirability or repulsiveness, and eliciting a “Hmmmmmm” or an “Ew!”

One of us wondered wether you could take all of someone’s answers and put them into a computer program that would figure out the perfect match.  Wilmot began, “But wait!  Rebecca, you said…” and I was somewhat skeptical of whatever he was about to say since he doesn’t know me as well as Charlotte and so had asked me a lot of “Who Would You Rather” questions where my choice had been obvious to me and Charlotte.

But he continued, “You said before that you would rather hook up with C over H, right?”  Yeah.  “And I’m pretty sure you picked H over G right?”  Uh huh.  “But didn’t you also pick G over C?  You’ve created a circle!  Or a triangle.”

Wait a minute.  I thought about it and he was right!   I don’t know how Wilmot had stored all of that information over the past several hours.  But I kept going over it in my head and it was true.  The answers had to do with the real-life context for each choice but it still blew my mind- and Wilmot said that my triangle would definitely be an obstacle for our computer program.

It’s really slim pickins in here today…what else?

3.  I first heard the phrase “slim pickins” in the movie “Lady and the Tramp.”

For years I thought the word “Buick” was a synonym for car, just like automobile, rather than a brand.  This is because when I was around five I was watching “Annie Hall” with my family and during the scene where Alvie is trying to kill a spider with a tennis racket and says the spider is the size of a Buick, I asked, “What’s a Buick?”

My mom said “It’s a car.”

So, be very careful what you say to your children.

I saw the movie “Murder by Death” for the first time last week and decided I want to start using the word “malarkey.”

That’s it for now.  Goodnight, sweet Internet.