Thursday, December 5, 2013


"Can I have a sugar-free honey latte?"

"Ma'am, we can't do that sugar-free. We use real honey."

"But isn't honey naturally sugar-free?"

"No, ma'am."

"You sure?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I'm not sure I believe you, but oh, well."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Call From My Mother

So my mother called me today and when I answered, she immediately said, "You need to take me to lunch!"

"When would you like to go?" I asked.

"Right now," she answered. "Come pick me up!"

"Mom," I said. "I'm working at the coffee shop right now. I can't just leave to take you to lunch. How about we go to lunch tomorrow?"

"I can't tomorrow," she said. "Sunday is my only day off."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "You don't have a job."

I heard her audibly cluck at this, as if I'd said something incredibly stupid.

"Sunday is the only day I don't have my afternoon rituals," she explained. She means her 3-hour daily afternoon regimen that's a mix of christian prayer, voodoo ritual, and psychic concentration. I've only had the slightest glimpse of her doing this in her living room, rocking back and forth on her living room couch with her eyes squeezed shut, muttering who knows what.

"Well," I continued moronically. "That's not really a job."

This hit a nerve.

"Who do you think protects you?" she exclaimed. "It's not easy keeping away all the spells and demons!"

I knew I'd gone too far, so I decided to backtrack.

"I know, Mom," I said. "How about we go to lunch next Sunday?"

"That will be fine," she said in a much calmer tone.

Monday, June 10, 2013


So, yesterday, I get asked, "What sign are you?"

I give my typical answer, which is, "Since you know me, why don't you tell me what sign you think I am?"

What followed was a 20-minute guessing game in which 3 people began to speculate about my personality & its relationship to the stars and planets. 10 guesses were made as to my astrological sign.

In what seems like a mathematical anomaly, all 10 guesses were wrong.

"I'm a Leo," I finally divulge.

"Oh, that makes sense," I get told.


Do I Have A Sign On My Head?

It just happened again:

I'm in Home Depot, shopping for a new patio shade. I'm dressed in a blue t-shirt and shorts, no orange apron, no name-tag.

But this guy looks at me while pointing at an umbrella, and he asks, "How many colors does this come in?"

"I'm sorry," I say. "I don't know."

"Can you ask someone?"

"I don't actually work here," I reply.

"Well, why didn't you just say so?" the guy says.

I apologize again and go on my way.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Poem That Kicked My A$$

I love poems whose music contains both profundity and specificity.

This poem, "All You Know," by Carol Ann Davis does just that, so go read it and then come back and tell me about it.

It moved me. I hope it moves you. But I'm perfectly willing to be wrong about that.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Dream With My Mother

(For some context, read my previous entry about my mother.)

So last night I dream I have fallen into a lake from a paddlewheeled ferry.

I tread water as I watch the lights of the ferry move farther & farther away. I'm not sure if I jumped overboard or was pushed. In any case, I am certain the boat isn't stopping for me.

Looking around, I see another glow in the middle distance and start swimming towards it.

The waters of the lake are warm and calm, but I'm somehow aware of things moving through the depths beneath me. I have to focus to keep from panicking as I swim.

As I get closer to the glow, I see that I'm swimming to a small island. It's just yards across, a little patch of grass sticking a few feet up from the surrounding lake. On it sits a wrought-iron bench with an electric lantern hanging over it. And someone is sitting on the bench, staring right at me.

Of course, it's my mother sitting there waiting for me. She begins laughing and clapping her hands as I step out of the water. Magically, I'm completely dry as I do so, and by the time I get to where she is sitting, I'm wearing the same white outfit as my mother. It's made of soft linen and looks like something a monk might wear. The grass feels soft and cool under my bare feet.

"I told you," my mother says. "I told I'd be here."

"Yes, you did," I say. "But how can I be sure you're you?"

My mother shakes her head at this.

"None of my enemies are strong enough to impersonate me," she tells me. "I would know it if they try."

I sit next to my mother on the bench. As we look out over the dark surface of the lake, I can see the ferry as a far-off, fading point of light. My mother pats me on the shoulder.

"You know why you're here, don't you?" she asks.

"All I know is I'm dreaming," I say.

My mother points to the glittering speck of the ferry.

"That boat was taking you somewhere you thought you wanted to go," she says. "But I could tell it wasn't right for you."

"Where was it going?" I ask.

"I don't know," my mother says, waving her hand. "I just knew you wouldn't belong there."

I turn to her.

"So, you made me fall off the boat," I say.

My mother cracks up at this, clapping her hands and nodding.

"It was so easy!" she exclaims. "You're so clumsy. And you're not always alert like I tell you to be."

This is when I hear a noise behind us. I turn to see that there's a bridge attached to this little island, a wooden walking bridge that stretches into the distance, and I can only assume that it goes all the way to the shore of the lake.

What I hear are footsteps. Something is running towards us on the bridge, which is shaking slightly. Whatever is coming, it sounds big and fast, stomping its way towards us, and I think I hear growling.

"You have to go now," my mother says as she stands up. She cracks her knuckles and does some quick knee-bends.

Then she looks at me.

"Get up!" she exclaims. "Time to go!"

I stand.

"Where do we go?" I ask. The thing on the bridge is close enough now to almost see. It's definitely large, running on two legs, and snarling.

My mother gives me a little shove towards the water.

"I'm not going anywhere," she says. "But you need to leave."

Then she begins walking towards the bridge. I start to follow, but my mother stops and turns towards me. I'm terrified, but she just looks annoyed.

"I guess it's good you didn't leave yet," she says as she pulls a little pouch out of the front pocket of her outfit and hands it to me. "I forgot to give you this."

I open the pouch and look inside. Inside are a toothbrush, a pen, a pocketknife, a large, transparent marble, and a small vial of urine-colored liquid that looks like it has grains of sand floating in it.

"What's all this for?" I ask.

"We don't have time," my mother replies, taking the pouch out of my hand, cinching it closed, tying it shut, and then wrapping its cord around my wrist. "Just don't lose this, okay? You're going to need it."

The thing on the bridge, still running, gives a long howl that almost makes me wet myself. After a glance at it, my mother gives me another look of complete irritation. I can't tell if she's peeved at me or the thing that's howling.

"Now, you leave," she says. "Start swimming. I'll find you later."

"But what about...that thing?" I ask.

"It's not here for you," my mother tells me. "If you stay, you'll just get in my way."

"Where do I go?" I ask.

"That's up to you," my mother says. "Choose a way, then go. But do it now."

The thing is now standing at the end of the bridge, looking for all the world like a giant movie werewolf with long arms that end in knife-like claws. Its growling has subsided, but as it stands there, it keeps swinging its arms around, as if warming up for a fight.

My mother starts walking towards the thing, again reaching into her pocket, this time pulling out a sparkler and a lighter. She lights the sparkler as she walks, and when it begins spitting out sparks, my mother starts waving it around in big circles. The smoke from the sparkler billows out so thickly that soon I can't see her or anything else on the island.

"Go, JJ!" I hear her yell.

I presume the next words are directed towards the beast.

"YOU!" my mother shouts. "Why are you always following me! Why do you always bother me! Everywhere I go, you show up. Why?"

As I step back into the waters of the lake, I hear my mother continuing her tirade, and I hear the beast start to whimper and whine. When I get about waist-deep, I realize my outfit has disappeared and I'm naked, with only my mother's pouch tied around my wrist.

I start swimming away from the island, conscious as ever of things moving through the depths beneath me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Mother Visits The Shop Again

(For some context, check out my previous entry, "Today's Visit From My Mother.")

So last evening, as I was talking to the artist Tommy Vinci, I notice my mother walking into the coffee shop.

I introduce her to Tommy, telling her he's the one whose paintings adorn a whole corner of the shop.

"Oh, you have a very bright imagination!" she exclaims. "Keep creating! It keeps you young!"

Tommy, as usual, is very gracious as my mother gushes over him.

Then she turns and hands me a big bag of almonds.

"I got you these for your prostate," she says.

I thank her, and we continue to make small talk for a while.

Then my mother says, "I have to go to the filipino store before it gets too dark."

As I walk her out to her car, she says, "You've been sick, haven't you?"

"I had a cold for a few days, but I'm okay now," I tell her.

"I can tell," she says as she slides into the driver's seat. "But you've lost too much weight. You need to eat more."

I reassure her that I'm doing just fine.

"Have you been dreaming?" she asks.

This is a new line of questioning.

"Doesn't everyone?" I reply.

"Well, I've been practicing on how to help you," my mother says. "So you'll be seeing me in your dreams soon."

"That's great, Mom," I say. "I need all the help I can get."

As she straps on her seat-belt, my mother follows up.

"Is anyone troubling you? I can tell you're being troubled," she says.

We're back to familiar territory now.

"No one's troubling me, Mom," I say. "I have no enemies that I know of."

She gives a kind of dismissive snort at this, as if to say I'm being overly naive.

"Well, when you figure out who's troubling you, just give me their name," she says.

"I will, Mom."

I watch as she backs her car out of its parking spot and heads off to buy who knows what.

Later, I sleep a little restlessly, wondering what dreams my Mom is going barge into.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gandhi Loses His Shoes

"One day Mahatma Gandhi was getting on a train in Calcutta, surrounded by many of his followers, when in all the hustle and bustle his shoe fell down into the small gap between the train and the platform just as the train was moving off. Without hesitation, Gandhi took off his other shoe and threw it after the first, as his followers looked at him, stupefied. Gandhi explained one shoe was no good to him, and no good to the person who would find it on the track. So why not throw the other show down on the track, so at least the finder could have two shoes?"

- from Little Theories Of Life by Peter Fitzsimmons.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Doing A Self-Check

A couple of days ago, I'm at the store, using the self-check register to tally up & pay for my items, none of which are significant for the purposes of this story, except to say that none of them are significant. They are just a big pile of the kind of crap we all need to get, just to get through our days.

And I'm feeling it. I am in a rush, and the tedious logistics of it all are weighing on my mind. I can't help but feel sorry for myself & frustrated that I am having to gather and pay for and haul home this pile of ultimately trivial stuff.

Which is when, of course, I see the guy in the wheelchair pull up to the self-check register next to me.

He's got a lapful of the same kind of crap I've got, which he duly starts ringing up, except that, where I just have to stand there and wave each item past the scanner and drop it into a bag, this guy has to lean forward, holding an item out with one hand so that it gets scanned, then roll his wheelchair a few inches so that he can drop the scanned item into a bag, all without spilling any of the unrung-up items that are still in his lap.

And this process takes him just long enough that the stupid "please place your item in the bagging area" reminder starts sounding off, every time.

Have I mentioned that he is in a wheelchair? An actual wheelchair, not a motorized cart? Which means, to move, he has to use his hands to spin his wheels, for which he is wearing a pair of those gloves that have the fingertips cut off.

I must have been dumbly gaping at him for a bit because he finishes before me. When he goes to pay, however, he realizes that the card-reader for his debit card is mounted at an inconvenient height, just barely out of his reach.

This is when a clerk steps up and offers to help.

"Nope, I got it," the guy says without looking at her, using one hand to boost himself up on the armrest of his wheelchair and the other to quickly swipe his card through the reader.

The clerk demurs, apologizing and backing away.

"Don't be sorry," the guy blurts out. "I just gotta do this for myself."

With that, as the register starts spitting out a receipt, the guy in the wheelchair re-piles his now-bagged purchases into his lap and starts rolling towards the door.

I finish my own transaction and head for the parking lot.

By some circumstantial quirk, I find myself right behind the guy in the wheelchair as I make my way up the aisle towards my car. And my pace and his are closely-enough matched that I have to decide whether or not to pass him or just fall in line behind him.

I decide to follow.

Turns out I'm parked just across the aisle from him, so I get to watch him load his groceries and himself into his SUV. First, he opens the driver's-side rear door and slings his bags onto the back seat. Then he closes that door and opens the driver's door, and, in one swift, smooth motion, lifts & slides himself behind the wheel. Finally, he leans down, grabs his wheelchair by one of the wheels, picks it up, folds it flat and brings it into the SUV with him. How he got it past his own body into the passenger seat is beyond me.

As he swings his door shut, he notices me staring and gives me one of those quick nods that guys give each other.

Needless to say, I suddenly feel a lot less frustrated. I am also more than a little inspired.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Urinal Weirdness

Earlier today, I'm at the Fashion Show Mall food court when nature calls, so I head into the restroom and step up to the only open urinal, which happens to be between these two drunk guys, both of whom are clutching (in one hand) those yard-long, plastic margarita bongs you can get everywhere on the Strip.

Just then, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge comes on the mall's sound system, which is cranked to stadium-show decibel levels in the restroom, and the guy on my left starts beat-boxing. Then, the guy on my right starts doing this kind of rappy scat-singing, riffing on the melody without using any actual words, but totally in sync with the guy on my left.

I start laughing so hard that I can no longer actually pee, which only encourages the guys on either side of me.

This goes on for what feels like a whole minute, until the beat boxer runs out of breath, zips up, and steps away from his urinal with a quick, "I'm out."

The guy on my right soon follows, while I compose myself and finish my business.

And, yeah, I remembered to wash my hands.