Monthly Archives: December 2010

Simplicity is Clarity – 2010

I am not a great chef. I’m not even a mediocre chef: I am a passable home cook in my best days, and a roach-palleted philistine on most of the rest. For all my twittertalk of gourmet home cooked meals, in reality it’s mostly me making a meal wildly out of order (dessert salads!) and in bulk so I can freeze it for lunch. But when I have a nice piece of nature’s handiwork that I’m getting ready to cook; a sirloin, a fillet of fish, a portobello — there is only one commandment.


See, food? It’s amazing. Real food is sweet and complex and wonderful, even raw — especially raw. We have so much variety available now, and it’s easy to want to over-do it with wildly overthought culinary craziness. Wrap it in bacon, stuff it with bacon, truffle oil it and sous-vide in early harvest Malbec with creme anglaise and Krispy Kreme reduction. But when you have a line caught grouper steak on the griddle, what you should really be doing is trying not to ruin it, instead of trying to remember where your black volcanic finishing salt is for the chipotle-mole foie whip. Everything you add TO the fish cannot fix overcooked, ruined fish. So you must concentrate not on the darkest corners of your spice rack but on the basics of cookery. The temperature of the pan, the quality of the ingredients, alternating patience and measured attention until you have delivered on your promise to the beast that it did not die to become a Filet-o-Fish. Each thing you do to the meal beyond that is adding complexity and risk, and once you reach the end of your capabilities as a chef? You are just sabotaging the dish, then the meal, then sabotaging yourself. Because NOTHING is less satisfying than working for six hours to make the perfect chive and anchovy sauce to put on some cheese souffle best described as “malted chalk-glue”.

Consciously or unconsciously, these effort- and time-intensive failures predispose us against cooking at all, because if I just want a plain BURGER I can get it at BURGER TOWN, right? And this realization, the simple act of noticing that I fucked up a project because I spent too much time making the pointless gestures and belaboring decisions that make no difference? It has freed me from many failures. Simplicity is Clarity. It’s at the top of this page and at the heart of every blog I have had for twelve years. And every year, I discover in some fresh new way that I have been Doing It Stupid and I should be Doing It Simpler. That applies to everything in my life. From friendships to projects, from food to money, my entire goal is to not fuck things up by making them complicated. Automate it, maintain it, nip it in the bud, do not put off until tomorrow what should be done today, take whatever steps you must to do it right, but do NOT make it complicated.


It wasn’t that she wasn’t cute. The night had progressed weirdly and I needed to be alone with my thoughts. What kind of a girl would do this anyways, a weird guy walking toward the bottom of a bridge at midnight, a foil wrapped sandwich in his pocket. Ask some directions, sure that’s fine. Ask me to get in your car and help you find a place? OK, sure. But the neverending yammer of your jaw and something desperate in the constant laughter ha-ha won’t this be hilarious ha-ha what did i do i picked up a guy rattle that is currently jamming out of her face full force. She wants me to look at her hands, they’re shaking, she says.

Out my window there are the lines and I see one, hair black and straight eyes dazzling and she looks at me and when those eyes bat I _want_ her. I want to tear those buttons off with my teeth and tell her all my problems. I want her to make them better and make me come and thenimbackinthejeep.

She doesn’t smoke, she says, fingering the pack, but four just now in the stress of trying to find her way down. I tried to explain, the streets are in order, like the alphabet. And even if you’re a subnormal you can remember up to G, right? Four drinks, she says, but she’s not drunk, not even a bit, the stress of the drive has sobered her right up as we slide past the lines. They’re turning off their cell phones. Guys do that. When they’re trying to get laid. Right right. Yes it’s spelled like couch but it’s said like cooch. Ha-ha. But then I’m sitting in her checkered seat cover and she’s blasting me just bombarding me with it. It’s in the edge of her eyes that perfect glassy pupil but then something behind it like… broken clockwork. It’s on a loop now and she says she’s so young ha-ha but she just looks young she’s not that young ha-ha and like young but not 18 young. Her hands are shaking and she touches the pack again and I lick my lips thinking about the taste of hay and the red hot receptors currently throbbing in my head just flare. Take one and you won’t even notice it till it’s gone you’ll cough once or twice but no biggie and she says she doesn’t smoke, you’ll probably get the pack. We’ve driven through two parking lots now trying to find a place. There’s nothing on the street, not this late on a Friday. The problem with these lots is, most of them, you see, they just don’t take cards and she doesn’t have any cash and she’s going to pay my cover though at the club oh look at the line we’ll have to wait. I scratch my beard and think about asking her if I look like the sort of person who waits in line at clubs. But then I realize maybe she doesn’t think there’s any other type of person. In her world there are only people who go out on Friday night and wait in line for clubs, and Parents. An uncomfortable silence has dawned since I answered a fourth question in a row with a noncommittal grunt. There are no more line-girls to ogle. It’s not that she isn’t cute, I look at her. She’s fine. Plain. Drunk. I think she is talking about a different club that she was at before. She has totally ruined my buzz. When we park I bail, and she asks after me and I just pretend like I’ve lost much of the english language. We could have a week together, and it would not be enough for me to thoroughly explain why I’m leaving to go walk until I have blisters. It’s complicated, and it starts with age, honey, but that’s really more like chapter three. If you’ll open up the workbook to page one and get out your Mortimer Ichabod Marker. You don’t get that huh. Yeah, see. Again. Chapter three. But you’ve ruined a twenty dollar drunk, and that’s not a good start. She’s got her tiny purse and her daddy’s debit card and the club is this way hey wait I hook a thumb over my shoulder and cannot think of a single thing to say. The walking again, then. A third bridge crossing of the night. Steel, instead of Broadway. I’ve still not walked that one. My phone dies just after letting me know there are no more trains back to the car. But it’s warm enough, and there’s no rain, and I’m thankful.

The socks had to come out two miles from the car, revealing a hum dinger of a blister, which squidges against the cement satisfactorily while I barefoot carefully past the movie theater. Better without the socks, once the sidewalk-to-glass ratio dips unnervingly low, and we’re over the hill now. It’s all downhill from here. Gimme that lemon lime gator, and a black and mild. Single? Of course a fucking single. It’s two AM and you’re a 7-11 clerk at the ass end of Portland do a lot of motherfuckers come in here to stock up? It’s angry now, I’ve processed all the fun out of that booze and now it’s just the pain, throbbing in time with my steps, like when I step on that blister it squeezes red hot pus up into the back of my skull.

I’m back to the car now and it’s something o’clock I forgot to change it with daylight saving. I forget if it’s an hour ahead or behind. It’s almost quarter till something. No need for much precision. Gingerly now on the clutch, use just the big toe, that’s better. Almost home now. To sleep, and dream of an apocalypse, where all my little bullshit problems today seem hilarious and small, and my dream feet throb, as I walk from place to place, searching for signs of civilization.

The Dance

Let me tell you the story of the second time I did acid. The first time was in college and it was just a hazy mess of drinking and god only knows if it was good or real, but the second time… the phone call letting me know “uncle sid” was in town, the drive to Scottsdale, the five sugar cubes with their off-colored spots on all faces, divided carefully. The decision to not drop until it was just dusk, the Annoying Girl Who Could Not Identify Planes, the birthday party, the memories of that second time are rock solid. It’s not happened in a long time but if I concentrate just right… I can be back there any time – that many hits pretty much clips your third eye open and gives it the Clockwork Orange treatment for the better part of a day. But this is not the time to talk about my psychedelic awakening, this is time to talk about the dance.

That evening, unlike every single other evening of my life in Phoenix, AZ, ended at The Mason Jar in Tempe, on Goth night (when it became… THE KILLING JAR). Since I fit in at a goth club like Dita Von Teese fits in at Christmas mass, my activities were… limited. I sweated out petrochemical derivatives and got hit with a giant pixie-stick, ground my teeth a lot and watched the dancers dance. And as I squatted in the corner of the darkened bar, spacetime unfolding itself endlessly into my midbrain, I came to some conclusions about dancing. I am not a talented dancer. I have neither the grace nor poise to truly master any physical activity, and my self-censoring prevents me from that kind of attention-inspiring behavior. Like singing, lovemaking, or cooking, one must first be unafraid of failure, then unafraid of work, then finally unafraid of attention in order to do it properly. Needless to say, it terrifies me.

All dance clubs are fundamentally the same: keep the music loud enough to dissuade conversation and the booze cheap enough to attract single women. Dancers at a goth club are _similar_ to dancers at other clubs. They are typically single with a high ratio of dancing females to akwardly stationary males, but unlike other club scenarios, there is an incredibly low percentage of dancer-coupling. There’s no “freak” or “waltz” or “hop” for this crowd, no slowdancing couple fingerfucking their way toward the front door or back corner, part of the mystique of this crowd is individuality, specifically loneliness, so the dancing is incredibly solitary, reed like onyx-clad bodies writhing seductively to nobody in particular. In the occasional flash of dance floor illumination, a crowd of late teens and twenty somethings move and react spastically, utterly without rhythm, without cohesion, eyes closed. And I watched this for two songs. Three. An hour. And I began to pick out individuals to watch in this mess, to see what they did, what their rhythm was, to see what kept them going in this apparently unselfconscious undulation.

And that’s when I saw it. I focused on a girl. Not a woman, mind you — a girl, she was young enough for girl. As the music moved her, she whooped and whirled her body, straight black hair waving over skin tight shirt, rings on fingers and chains on neck, eyes shut. And as the music swelled, the beeps and blorps of the fourty minute club mix winding down from its cilia-slaughtering peak, she performed a beautiful flourish. So in time with the music, so utterly crisp and perfect that my breath caught in my throat, a simple move, natural, so evocative of the beat. It showed off her every curve, the flow of her waist to the hip, the concavity between neck and shoulder, taut abdomen under gossamer top, her nipples brought to stark relief by strobing light. I was transfixed. So gorgeous she was, so lovely, and so unaware of it! I watched her and all other people disappeared from the earth for thirty glorious seconds, it was just her blind undulation and my hungry eyes. And then she did it again. It broke me out of the moment, just slightly, to listen for a queue in the music. Another flourish without a musical swell, and another. I watched as her once-perfect flourish dissolved into something she did two or three times per song, and her eyes, far from meditatively closed, were instead clamped hard, concentrating, and I could see at once what she was doing. Trying sooo hard to look cool. Trying to make each motion of her dance grand and final, like at one point she’d do it just right and the whole world would pause the scene, fade to black, and roll credits. It took me out of my reverie and I looked at the whole mass of skinny black jeans and buckles, each of them alone on that floor. Eyes clamped shut. Trying so hard, every song, to get that flourish right. And it at once went from looking like a crowd of seekers experiencing music physically to a floor of desperate, lonely people, trying hard to time their next grand flourish so it looks like it was effortless. Not practicing to perfect their dance, just trying over and over to FINISH it.

I told someone earlier today some pretty harsh stuff, because they are trying to live their life from grand flourish to grand flourish, like somehow the little shit will just get tied up without any work as long as you’ve exhausted yourself with the ridiculous and outlandish. Life isn’t a sprint. It’s not a movie. It’s not a mini series. It’s not dancing. It’s an ultramarathon of indeterminate length. There are no mile markers and there’s no rest stops, no finish line and no competitors, just an endless road that you must travel at your own speed. And if you are to make progress, you must work at it, you cannot simply close your eyes, stretch your arms and hope that today is the day you find the finish line.