Archive for the A Life in the Day Category

Flash Panic!

Posted in A Life in the Day, Cool places in New York, The EXPERIENCE! on 27/08/2010 by todcrouch

Flash in the Panic!  12 writers, one page each!

August 25th, Nowhere Bar 8 pm.

I was asked to read for Charlie Vasquez’s Panic Reading Series, which is always a fun experience.  The fun and challenging part of this particular event was using only one page and one side to tell a story.  I read from “The only life I ever intentionally ruined”, but the other pieces stood out far more.

Some of the highlights from this particular line-up gave the right amount of sizzle or hilarity.  Rachel Kramer Bussel, hostess of the In the Flesh Reading Series, read  about being inspired from a Brookyln bar called “Cokey’s” (Yes, that’s exactly what its name implies) by opening a cupcake shop that provided oral satisfaction to women, both above and below the belt.  The exceedingly handsome Tomas Rafael Montavalo curled the toes of many with his poem about taking it, twisting the plot with a strap-on.  Gabrielle Rivera blew my mind as she came late to the mike from the bathroom (her friend still waiting inside) and blasted us with a hilarious story called “Fingerbang”, recounting her first fingerfuck in a bowling alley.  Garrett Ford read a lovelorn scene from one of his previous plays and Charlie Vasquez read from his new book Contraband.  Matthew K. Johnson read a sexy little piece, with the help of some expanded margins, with his relatable brand of compelling sexual anxiety.  Newcomer to the mike was the Nowhere Bartender, Patrick Kelleher, who told of us of his first day on the job at East Village gay bar fixture Boiler Room in the 90s.  Bar Manager John Williams closed out the show by unfolding this endlessly enormous page, still sticking to the guidelines–he could have read for hours off of it, but surprised us with something short and sweet.

we ran smoothly.  Whereas Charlie usually introduces us with a brief bio, he asked us where we were from and the direction of our work.  I explained by background and how I was usually long-winded, then looked up to see Charlie completely disappear from my side.  The fast and loose outline we went in was a nice change of pace, in the building suspense of what and who we would experience next, ourselves included.  

I was under the impression that a page would last a minute, but among the writers we ran smoothly.  I know I’m leaving out some people–I have to get better at recording these events as I attend them.  At the reading,   Kierkergaard’s dog ate Shroedenger’s Cat.


Brion Gysin is Alive and Well and Living on the Bowery

Posted in A Life in the Day, Cool places in New York, Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 27/08/2010 by todcrouch

He is that he is, and is that he is he.

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine

New Museum 7/7/10–10/3/10

As one of the most intriguing contemporary artistic Shamen of the 20th century, who believes as Brian Eno does– that art serves a purpose we have not evolved into yet.  As a painter, a novelist, a magician, a subversive, inventor and a restaurateur, he never really achieved commercial success, and still chugged along as though life was just another short-term gig,  just passing through.

I was first exposed to Gysin through my love of Burroughs, where I read  Gysin’s “The Process”, which was a most uncomfortable book to read, only because it was the first novel that ever read ME.    There’s the old Nietzschen phrase of staring  into the void that stares back, but to capture this in book form is downright pornographic, or retro-voyeuristic–like watching yourself being watched like a cam2cam, but about fifty years before computers.

I wandered into the New Museum on the Bowery, nearly a contradiction of terms, to chat up the ticket taker and make my way to the second floor, where Brion’s work commands respect.  Split into several rooms on the second floor, one stands amid the encased and numerous notebooks while being assaulted by one room of his film, “Towers Open Fire!” while in another room, his public performance of his sound poetry plays to a slide show in a darkened room.  The guests seemed to have little in common, save for this obscure artist of word and image.

Gysin made a point in an interview conducted by Genesis P. Orridge-Breyer wayback when where he mentioned that his paintings were best viewed when stoned, since he was stoned himself while creating it.  Thereby the art, when viewed by the stoned, recreates the mind-senses of the artist in the viewer and acts as a clean telepathic link between time, space, and mind.  Of course it sounds like hippie talk until it happens to you.  Surrounded by the paintings and collages resemble floor plans, architectural layouts, Max Ernst-esque landscapes–mixing in with lines of Arabic, French, or English.  But I’d researched all this before and other people are better at hyping up art.  I was here for The Dream Machine.

Epileptics need not apply.

In a small black room in the middle, various throw pillows surrounded the cylindrical twirling object. An art school girl sat with headphones to my left, while an old New York hippie sat smiling opposite, also wearing headphones, as The Museum supplied music which enhanced the kaleidoscopic qualities of the vision-creating device.  Calligraphy lined the inner chamber.  I sat down before the legendary object and closed my eyes.  I was unusually self-conscious about partaking in this, the way some would submit themselves to an i-doser tune.  The flicker device allows the mind to enter a dreamlike state, giving the individual waking dreams.

Like this on an Imax in strobe effect.

It was almost a shame to end it.  For a few minutes after, I felt as though my eyes were still vibrating from the experience.  There’s a few sites online that claim to be digital Dream Machines, by turning flickering a white screen, but these often feel harsh as opposed to the smooth contours of the original.

I left, alone into the bright streets, but somehow feeling Gysin walking with me through New York, taking his favorite roads, mapped out by a painting.

If You Ain’t Got No Money, Take Your Broke Ass Home

Posted in A Life in the Day with tags on 17/04/2010 by todcrouch

Here are a few pointers to keep from going insane while starving and lonely in your empty apartment.

*Steal Toilet Paper.  If you are lucky enough to have a McJob, take anything that isn’t nailed down and you can’t really get busted with.  For example, toilet paper.  It’s one of those essential things that is easily taken for granted until you have to scrape poop off your ass with your fingernails and have to wash your hands (and you can’t afford fancy hand soaps).  If you do get caught with your pants down, be mindful that coffee filters work well as TP, and they always sell them in such a bulk that it would take a lifetime to go through an entire pack of the “cupcake” model.

*Buy Tools.  Sure, you probably have a messianic complex, which means you suck so bad at carpentry that you have to proclaim your minor in college as “son of god” and prepare yourself for the irony of getting nailed in the most literal sense of the term.  But a hammer, a flathead, a Phillips, a box of big nails and a thick roll of duct tape will save your ass; your furnitureless  existence and excess of free time will occasionally require you to build a joke of a bookshelf from 2x4s you find on the street to get all your crap off the 10×10 apartment you pray to god is not your tomb.   You’ll figure out how to use them when you need to.

*Food. Above all else, there is food.  Ramen seems like the obvious choice, but when you start seeing your heartbeat through your ribcage, and the lack of protein has started to eat away at your brain, causing MSG Madness, you’ll be quick to reassess such a dilemma.  First thing’s first: buy vitamins.  You can stave off MSG madness awhile longer with vitamins, but you will need meat and fat.  If you are vegetarian/vegan,  these are sacrifices you must make if you are truly of single minded purpose.  There are many places you are can dumpster dive for bread. Stay away from meats.  Breads (try a dunkin donuts) is as good a start as any.  If you have the proper paperwork, food stamps come easy if you are white.  Other races get a lot more shit and bureaucracy .  The attitude of “Hey man, I’m just a guy down on his luck for awhile” works very well if you have a very high tolerance for bullshit.

*Take walks. Yes, you are that guy gibbering to himself, walking beside a vacant parking lot, wondering what the hell you are going to do with your life.  You might even wander into a bad neighborhood and die.  However, walks are highly important.  First off, it transforms your room from a prison to a base of operations.  Internet job hunts are a harrowing realization that the odds are against you, but if you do a walkabout, you might find a cozy place you can drop off your resume.  If people see that you have some color to you, it means you aren’t a crazy hermit, even if you are.  Thirdly, you can find stuff, and being unemployed, it can take you all day to take back to your pad.  Planks of wood are essential, be it for an ugly bookshelf, zombie-proofing your pad, or making a bed out of milk crates.  In addition to whatever lumber you find, you can find clothes.  You might find someone raptured.  Someone who has been raptured is usually a bum who has been mysteriously relocated and all of his belongings are still under that overpass.  Go to a local gas-n-go and get some extra plastic bags to dig through this quite literal gross-ass shit.  Bums poop themselves regularly, so a level of trepidation is required in going through raptured piles.  But anyone who knows the true bitterness of chill casts aside judgment—and bums usually keep their best clothes in slightly better condition.  But all these are not the primary blessing of the walk, which leads to…

*Stay Sane. The odds are against you and it’s not as sexy as it sounded when you were in college.  You are living The Last Tango In Paris and you’ve just run out of butter.  You have too much time on your hands and you have unwittingly become a burden on all the contacts and deep friends you know.   Accept it: no one will want to talk to you, so work on being charismatic and squeeze money from the air.  A cowboy’s life was not all Brokeback and Jack Palance, and there are months of watching idiot cattle cross the line.  Don’t beat yourself up when you know life is passing you by.   You chose to be broke for some higher purpose, because no one without vision would choose this life.  Stupid people don’t care enough to be where you are, so don’t sell your modest self short.  A hard life does not mean impossibility, nor does it mean broken defeat (see the Unforgiven for further reference).   On those days that run too long, hone your sense of nuance.  A man who knows his interests is a man of leisure, and there is no sense in being starving, hysterical-naked if you have nothing to show for it.  Hone.  Get that six-pack.  Read your Classics.  Keep busy.  Even if there is nothing going on, write in your journal to keep a dialogue going.  Yes, you are in Jail but have no bars.  Now that you know where you stand, you know where to walk.

The Disappearance of a Grocery Mule

Posted in A Life in the Day on 30/03/2010 by todcrouch

Passing after hour of the wolf, the house falls silent now even as the wind shakes my weak windows by an infant frame and a rough draft rakes my back.  I worry about disappearing, just another ghost in the room with nothing to say.  All the machines powered from speech’s thunder can leave a man mute and blunted.  I think I damaged my hearing a bit with my iPod, which has since been lost.  The irony of going deaf from a device replaced by the deafening silence of a speechless subway car is enough poetry for one day.  The Buddha laughs at a fear of disappearing, and said, “You really think there’s anything left of you  to disappear?”

Often, I only feel old being the grocery mule, walking back with bare-essentials, still in amazement of how many gallons of soda a family ingests.  There are no lies in bulk.  I’m unshaven and squinting, as I’ll only go before noon to avoid that world where everyone has to do the same thing at the same time, battling through the overcrowded schedules of the masses.  The grocery mule doesn’t go to the diner after the bars close.  He listens to the sizzle, watches the boil, turns off the smoke detector again, Makes a point to use spices to cover up the powders and aluminum, the packets and the cardboard paper.   You know, sustenance.   Life catches up to you when you carry groceries.

It’s easy to say “nothing is happening” with a monotonous complaint, and movement blur together slowly like a panic fought with Tai Chi.  Doing the same thing faster doesn’t change the action, until you run out of things to do.  Perhaps that is the key to “doing nothing quickly”—where you can happily do anything.

I wish there was some lively anecdote in all this, some narrative arc of an incident.  But the wind howls and the brow furrows, where crows stand sheltered in the corners of my eyes, waiting with me.

The Crisis of the Mices

Posted in A Life in the Day on 30/03/2010 by todcrouch

In the dim matinee of my new apartment, mouse #1 idled up to my bed. He was a little unblinking babe with adorable Dumbo ears. What is a casual mouse to me? A Kramer, perhaps, popping in to remind me of my Taoist harmony with nature. I hissed and growled my territorial superiority at the youngin’, who replied politely as though he botched airplane seating arrangements. Ah, my psychic commune with the wide eyed little scamp reminded me all was fair in the jungle. Move along little friend and peace be with you, as is the way of nature. I wish no harm to you so long as you make yourself invisibly scarce. The other side of the wall is yours so long as this side remains mine.

One particular night following a long particular day, my head hit the pillow, begging to be rendered lucid and leave the past workday as far behind as yesterday can. My hair moved independently, which never happened before. I sprung up in near darkness and skinned sheets from bedding to see the gray streak shoot to shadow–the culprit of my riotous hair. Mortified by the verminization of my brittle shag, the savagery accosting me would not go unpunished.

I did not sleep that night, as each time my eyelids fluttered closed, the “all clear” rose to a pestilence of gnawing and scraping beyond the drywall. Obviously, mouse #1 cared little about treaties. Him and his brethren rattled walls like childhood monsters. Contrary to popular belief, church mice are not quiet. Instead of sleep, I waited for them to scurry this scalp again, taunting and besting me with psychological warfare. I’m not afraid of mice. I just don’t want to sleep with them.

In the morning, I bought a poorly manufactured and generally ineffective poison. Mouse #2–the death cheater–miscalculated and failed to defeat my bathtub’s slick walls. I decided to starve him out being a passive pacifist or a malicious sissy. Eventually, he faked his death so I’d put him in the Garbage, where he did not rot and ate heartily to leap out to his escape. I realized that my harmony with nature was all wrong: so the war began.

I rose the following day to the bathroom, where #1 waited behind the toilet. I could only stare at him, knowing if I went left, he’d dodge right and vice versa. Large is almost always slower than small. This disadvantage left me and Mouse #1 at a standstill. He watched me from his corner behind the toilet. We sat there, together, waiting awhile. A beast’s liberation is beyond reason and I suddenly recognized this attribute in some humans I knew. I was jealous of their romps in plastic bag playgrounds during my sleepless vigil.

I pretended #2 never escaped the garbage and died poisoned. Victories must start somewhere, even if we have to make them up for a second win. #1 had the eyes of Oliver Twist and I felt like a reasonable gangster. Mice bleed and I won’t shed another’s blood without provocation. I just don’t want to clean up murder. I wasn’t going to let a patient mouse make me late for work. I stepped aside and he scurried past. As #1 scampered the tile, #3 joined in from behind my little wastebasket. One mouse is cute. Two mice is a pandemic. The war escalated and I had to go to work, leaving my kingdom in the hands of gypsies. Upon returning from work, They had set up a carnival and a Ferris wheel at the foot of my bed. They didn’t like the movie “Reds” for some reason, so I maxed the volume and let the flicker spook. I tried waiting them out for a day off to counterattack, but the relentless sounds of the circus and carnival rides frayed my last sleepless nerve. I heard the carnival barker at the hole behind my stove welcoming one and all. And if I ever stood in their way, they’d just run through my hair again and let me go irreversibly insane.

Sleep deprivation was easier to deal with ten years ago, but my calm demeanor eroded into an obsession fit for “Apocalypse Now.” I was too tired to cry. I roared and I stomped while throwing objects in reach while ancient rage consumed me like a Jungian father-beast archetype. War War War. From mercy to wrath lies a quickly crossed line. I became the hunter I never was. On the third day, I felt too exhausted not to move. At 3 p.m., I broke, flinging bedding off for the first clothes found. Like any war, swift victory is best.

The after school grocery rush was in full swing and waiting in line with arms full of every rodent-killing product available only accentuated this living, breathing, sleepless hell. The only recourse was total warfare and extermination. Poisons and glue were my forte, knowing a rodent’s loose affections for limbs. Spring traps might take a limb, and mice are okay with that. Subtle creatures are caught with subtlety. I would not sleep while they threatened to scurry through my blankets. If I wasn’t sleeping, I might as well kill. The Grocery Store Muzak played, “Had a bad day”. Somebody pulling the strings thought this scene was riotously hilarious.  I never bring myself to get angry at someone who pulls these clever strings.

My hands shuddered after two sleepless nights. I muttered to myself incoherently. My conscience become George C. Scott in the opening scene of “Patton.” My studio apartment became a war zone worthy of a gear-up montage. I covered the floor with poison pellets, laying glue mines along their traffic zones. I needed to buy enough time for a nap until I could get to the hardware store and go apeshit gangbusters.

Arriving home with Death’s sickle in hand, I closed the door like a serial killer. Within a half hour, I caught #4, Mr. Short Order, in a glue trap. As he struggled, I thought, “Now what?” So much for foresight. I wasn’t going to just toss it into the garbage. Mice were far more resourceful and clever than I ever gave them credit for. They are adaptive survivors, thriving by being underestimated. Mouse #4 struggled. Now what?

I pulled out an 8×11 manila envelopes used for sending manuscripts to publishers. Hell, they were already pre-stamped for delivery. I scooped up the squeaking gray breathing thing into the envelope with the usual futility I have when sending off a manuscript. Ah #4, with these envelopes we share defeat. I tossed him into the outside dumpster. Two down and a bold-faced kill in my favor. At that moment, I understood both nature and war. In sleepless delirium, I reminded myself not to understand too much more of either. I rested, waiting for #5–Mr. Bad Sequel–to sound the alarm of his capture. #5 amazed me with his persistence and predictability.

Having nothing to live for except for staying alive is a perspective few humans are blessed with. Now that Darwin only applies to animals, now what?

Another manila envelope.

I was sure they’d seek vengeance the moment I slept. I call this “Mouse Madness.” I always believe in the power of the many over the power of the singularity, and this time I preferred not to. Don’t tell the mice, but if they performed some kind of spooky mass raid on me, it wouldn’t take much to send me hysterically into the streets.

My brain plays CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle”. Every rustle stirred the tiger in me.  I scanned the room, ready to pounce. Yellow poison pellets scattered from under their small pink paws as I chased them. They knew better than to eat what reads “eat me”. A rustle in the bathroom garbage. Wild eyed, I stalk as a wraith of vengeance, justice, and law.

I dumped the wastebasket it into the bathtub, trapping two instantly: #5 (the terrified Daughter), and #6 (the courageously doomed teenage brother). I sprayed the terrified daughter with an athlete’s foot spray, blinding her. Being harsh and cold on my megalithic fungus-infected feet could not compare to the dusty blast she received on her wide, innocent eyes. The brother nearly cleared the bathtub and I knew the players of this tragedy needed a swift end. The daughter hid in a plastic bag and waited to fake, accept, or cheat death. She was the first to be enveloped. The courageous brother bounded for the ledge, slipping only centimeters between death and liberation. He tried to escape with an ambition too respectable to be stupid, though it came close. I herded him clumsily onto a glue trap. Another one enveloped. The bottom of the dumpster became a veritable family reunion. I honored them as fellow soldiers by not having them die alone–though dying painfully is fine.

I mourned the befouling of my bathtub and started cleaning it as I noticed #7, the Drunk, who somehow trapped himself in a beer bottle. I sympathized before adding him to the reunion.

After the victorious Battle of Glue, I went to work. Someone left, abandoned, or forgot (I shit you not) a stuffed toy of Mickey Mouse. Again, not my sense of humor.

I sleep easier with my six kills and glue trap landmines, though the adversaries plot in my walls. The ceaseless construction by vermin brings me to tears in uninterrogated torture.

Sunday, I finally get to the hardware store. The Handymen wished me luck, knowing the battle I faced. I am, for the first time in ages, vibrating with a single mindedness of pure determination as I return to the battlefield and fortify: A layer of poison pellets following steel wool under a mountain of spray foam blocked their hole behind my stove. Around this monument of impenetrability, I set a moat of glue traps. There is only winning, with no hope of ignoring the problem out of existence. No duality exists between victory and failure because I refuse to recognize failure. A rodent’s persistence is as admirable as their foolishness is pitiable.

One night while reading, I hear #2, the death cheater, scratching passionately from the other side of the fortification. The tiny claws and teeth start up every five minutes. I wondered why my apartment was so urgent. Were they working in shifts? It didn’t matter, as I had all my WMD’s–weapons of mouse destruction (and a groan is just lazy laughter) lined up for them on the other side.

“Welp, time to sweep the poison,” I thought, noticing poop everywhere. I anticipated getting a cat named Marv to continue the peacekeeping mission and wanted the area free of friendly fire. I found the reason for the ravenous clawing: Cute little #1 with the Oliver Twist eyes was trapped on this side, hiding and waiting for the escape route. Smart idea, since this little bugger wouldn’t have the time to dodge me and dig. I let him run as I had once before to that hole behind the stove. He didn’t even slow down before hitting the glue. His flailing took out three traps, each connected to his soft grey body. Into the envelope and into the dumpster, I tried not to think about the three heavy traps breaking him with gravity.

I came back inside and the scraping inside the wall stopped forever.

The Story of Douchebag Lewis

Posted in A Life in the Day on 29/03/2010 by todcrouch

The story of Douchebag Lewis

The band came in and with them some a neckless, jowled ‘tard in a red polo shirt with all the charisma of a Texas cop.  His face looked like a stump.  The forcedly inverted smile pointed to his dull eyes housed under a unibrow and a bad haircut from the sopranos.

There’s a lot of uuuuughly Americans with uuuuugly attitudes greasing up some bland kmart polo shirt tucked into khaki slacks with yellow sweat.  We have all come here to not get picked on and Here comes Douchebag Lewis, who’s fashion sense hasn’t changed since the seventh grade.  Besides, it fits his company’s casual dress code.   He asked for a beer before we were open.  I asked him if he was with the band and he told me “Friend of the drummer.”  Yes, gullibility runs strong in me.

He didn’t tip.

People who don’t tip will one day get their legs broken by a crime boss thug.  My grip on a better-than-worse mood slipped loose like a bowling ball or rage. He opened the tab as soon as we did.  I practiced forgiveness through grinding teeth.  He ordered an eight-dollar drink and I marked him as “Douchebag Lewis” so my coworker, Tim, would know exactly who I referred to and probably find the name faster.  He smirked.

So Douchebag Lewis closes his tab, confused at how much money he spent.  This is common with the bafflingly underdeveloped.  It’s math.  Do it.  He didn’t want to, so he demanded Tim show him the drink tally sheet with his proud new title in black ink, the total circled and his tallies crossed out.  So Tim revealed what I assumed would never be seen and be discarded.  He knew my rage and I can only sympathize with what I see of myself in others.  The his cross and furrowed monobrow bent in the center while his jowly frown sagged deeper, both pointing to his crossed eyes buried in a fury-flush of fat flesh.  He didn’t say a word about his new nickname and inquired about the price.  Furious.

I get called over when the question arises.

“But you told me the drink was six.”

“I was trying to be nice.”  I said.

“Well it wasn’t very nice.” he said, trying with all his might not to be a Douchebag.  Well, it’s a start.  He was new to not being a Douchebag.  Of all the tabs I’ve written, I’ve never sassed one, except for this Douchebag.  No one demands to see the tally sheet.  Except for Douchebags. I thought god made me do it, but Douchebag Lewis did it to himself. I knew his rage and he knew my wrath.  His dull brown enraged bull eyes locked with my vacantly pleased pair.  He expected me to apologize.  I shrugged and walked away.  Maybe he’ll tip next time.